Start at the Back

Day One: I head to the gym where Jonathan begins with a thorough assessment of said extra-curricular inches: “We’ve got A LOT of work to do,” he continues, “tris and bis need toning…shoulders…abs…definitely those calves…” He went down the list, on and on and on. It started to feel like he was just reading off every muscle from an anatomy diagram. As you can imagine, I started to feel a tad bit overwhelmed.

THEN, he adds, “oh, and we gotta work on your confidence too. You walk around here like you’re timid or something. That’s not gonna work.” He just tossed it out there with his tough-guy Brooklyn accent, which may have made it sound like just some casual off-hand remark, but the words stung. My confidence? Who does this guy think he is? This is not what I signed up for. I started to feel sick. What am I doing? Entering a fitness competition, really? And why did I have to post it on Facebook?

My head was spinning. My mouth was spitting fire: “Why did you tell me I should do this if I’m nowhere near competition material?”

He laughs, “Because I know you can do it. You’re smart. Remember, I said it’s all about being smart. Plus, I knew if I could convince you to do it, you wouldn’t back out. I’m not wasting my time helping someone who’s just gonna end up quitting. I know you’re not gonna quit. You’re stubborn as hell.” Did he get in touch with my little sisters or is it that obvious? Kelly and Christine, don’t answer that. :)

He follows up with, “Believe me, you’ll thank me later.” Ummm, ‘Thank you’ wasn’t exactly the phrase that was on the tip of my tongue. I was thinking something more along the lines of a popular CeeLo song. I felt tricked and trapped and way in over my head. And what’s my knee-jerk reaction to feeling overwhelmed? I get even more stubborn. I don’t know if it’s a defense mechanism or what, but when I start to spiral, I feel like if I don’t dig my heels in right at that very moment and hold my ground, I’ll crash.

Fine. Challenge Accepted. Where do we start? (How do you even pick a starting point when you’re dealing with a head-to-toe, inside-and-out project?!?)

He doesn’t even pause to think about it: “The back.”

Why? Here’s a quick summary of his explanation: Whenever you train a muscle, it needs energy to recover and maintain itself, so it draws on your body for that energy. Most of that energy that the muscle consumes will be fat and this process continues long after your workout. It’s constant, so basically even when you’re just sitting on the couch, your muscles are burning fat to recover and maintain. We start with the back because it’s one of the largest muscle groups we have. It basically takes up half of your body, so imagine half of your body burning up fat right out of the gate. Yup, the back sounded like the perfect place to start.

“Plus, it’ll help your posture. That needs work too,” he adds. Apparently, the confidence portion of my training was being saved for another day.

Here’s Workout #1: Back

1. Pull-ups- the regular old-school kind- as many as I could do, which was 2.

2. Then using a pull-up machine that offers assistance, set the weight to half your body weight and do 50 reps, in however many sets it takes. I did 20 the first set, 15 the second set, and 15 the third set.

3. Dead lifts with a 20 lb bar, 2 sets of 25

4. Seated Wide Grip Cable Pull-Downs—(using that bar that’s straight across the top and slants down on either side) overhand grip, pulling all way down to my chin—20 lbs, 25 reps, 2 sets
Then a set of what I call “halfsies” because you’re cutting the distance that you go up and down in half, intensifying the exercise. Pulling all the way down to my chin then halfway up, back down to my chin, and halfway up, 25 times.

5. Seated rows on the cable machine using a close-grip handle. I gotta start taking pictures of this equipment because some of it is really hard to describe. Anyway, bend your knees slightly and keep your elbows as tight to your side, pull your elbows back as far as you can, focusing on using your back muscles to pull (using your biceps as little as possible). 25 lbs, 20 reps, 2 sets

Let the fat-burning begin!

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