03-17-2014

Working Out At A Gym Vs. Working Out At Home

So you decide that you want to lead a healthier lifestyle and start exercising. Great! But should you sign up for a commercial gym? Or try working out at home?

workoutatgymvshome

I decided to lay out some pros and cons to each. For the purpose of this particular post, I’m going to focus on signing up for a commercial gym as opposed to small boutiques or personal training studies. Also, when I talk about working out at home, I mean doing exercise videos or using dumbbells/other small equipment (as opposed to building your own home gym).

Working Out At A Gym

Since I work out at my local YMCA, it was easy for me to think of a lot of the benefits of this. However, there could be some “cons” that may deter you from joining a gym.

Pros

  • A lot of different equipment, so it’s easy to switch up workouts.
  • Options to take classes
  • Personal trainers and wellness coaches to help you and give you tips.
  • Seeing other people working out may motivate you.
  • You’re changing your setting so you get out of the house.

Cons

  • The thought of having to drive to the gym could mean skipping a workout more often.
  • A lot of different equipment could be confusing and overwhelming.
  • Gym can get packed which could be annoying if you need specific machines or equipment.
  • Gym membership could be expensive.
  • It may be intimidating to workout around others.

Tips:

  • Take a gym tour of equipment before starting.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a trainer to show you correct form or spot you.
  • On days you don’t feel like working out, take a class instead. The group atmosphere helps a lot.
  • If possible, go at off peak times so you can use the equipment you need. Going during times that are less busy will also help if you’re intimidated of the weight room.

Working Out At Home

Working out at home has a lot of its own benefits. When I first started exercising in college, I did a lot of workout DVDs in my room. I loved Jillian Michaels! This is what inspired my recent post where I listed out my top workout videos on YouTube.

Pros

  • It’s convenient.
  • Even when you have no energy you really have no excuse, since you don’t have to go anywhere to work out.
  • You can multitask (workout while waiting for dinner to be ready).
  • You can vary your workouts by doing different workout videos and DVDs.
  • Less intimidating because you’re working out alone.
  • Great way to get family members in your house involved in fitness.

Cons

  • Unless you have a home gym, you may not have a lot of equipment to use.
  • You may not be as motivated because you’re working out alone.
  • Family could be a distraction/interrupt your workout.

Tips

  • Set up a time that you WILL do your workout. Think of it as a meeting that you can’t skip.
  • Let your family know about your time, so that way no one will distract you.
  • Make a YouTube playlist of workout videos, so you always have a selection ready.
  • Just as you would have a gym workout schedule, make an at-home workout schedule with what videos you will do each day
  • Try a new DVD each month to switch things up.
  • Get a friend or two to come over and workout with you!

So as you can see, there are great things about both options! Some days I’d rather workout at home with my mom or dad than go to the gym. It’s just more convenient and after a long day of work, I just don’t feel like getting ready and driving another 15 minutes to the gym!

There are some great fitness channels on YouTube like SarahFit and Blogilates…and myself ;)…just do some research and find workouts that best fit your needs.

What pros & cons did I forget about?

Which do you prefer? Working out at a gym or working out at home?

Do you have a personal trainer?

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03-11-2014

Save and Splurge: Fitness Items

Buying fitness related stuff can get addicting. I love shopping for new workout clothes, and when I see gadgets and other stuff for cheap at T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s, it’s hard to walk away!

I’m going to highlight some typical fitness items, with a “save” option and a “splurge” option. Some things are worth splurging on, while other things you could definitely get away with buying at a Five Below – but it really all depends on you, and how often you use certain things.

Yoga Mats

yogamatsThis all depends on how often you do yoga. I think if you do it once a week or so, like I do, then it’s okay to save on a yoga mat. The C9 Basic Yoga Mat is from Target, which also has other brands like Gaiam. I have used the lululemon yoga mat at their community classes and love it. My hands don’t slip at all. However, I don’t do yoga enough to justify buying it…but maybe one day!

Dumbbells

dumbbellsGetting adjustable dumbbells has been on my to-d0 list for a while. Once I have a home gym, I will definitely get a pair of these Reebok adjustable dumbbells (also available at Target). But, really, all you need for an at-home workout are a pair of dumbbells ranging from 5-10 lbs. The one above can be found at Five Below. If you don’t have one of those near you, check out Target or T.J. Maxx too!

Watches

watchesYou can look up both of these watches on their brand page, but I found that you can save a good chunk of change on Amazon*. The Polar GPS watch comes with a heart-rate monitor if you like to see how many calories you burn. I personally have a Garmin, but know a lot of people who own Polars and love them. I like that it’s a GPS and HRM in one. But if you don’t need all that, this Timex Women’s watch will do the trick. I like that it’s light and small, so it could be used in everyday life too.

There are a lot of other products I could include, but I’ll save that for Part 2! One thing I will say you should always splurge on is a good pair of sneakers.

Which of these products would you splurge on?

What fitness item do you have no qualms about spending a little extra on? For me it’s running shoes and shorts!

*Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon affiliate, so if you buy through the links provided, I may get a small % kickback, which helps with my blog hosting costs :)

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02-25-2014

Best Health & Fitness Apps

Do you use apps to help you workout? Or track your workouts?

I have been using a few different fitness apps over the past few years, but have found a couple that I love and wanted to share with you. Oh, and most of these are free! You can pay for an upgraded version but I have not done that on any – they work just as well in the free version!

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Apps are a great way to track your workouts, find new workouts, or try something new. I’m going to list a few that I’ve used, and then a few that I found via Google that I would like to try. I’ll link to the iTunes store, since most have iPhones, even though I’m on the Android side now ;)

What I’ve Used

RunKeeper

RunKeeper is my go-to running app. You can play music through the app, and I just set it and forget it. You can set up audio cues for when you want it to tell you how far you have gone (i.e. – every mile, every 2 miles). You can also have it tell you your distance based on the time you’ve been running (i.e. – every 10 minutes it tells you your distance). I have it set so that every 1 mile it tells me my average pace. The one thing I wish it did was tell me my current pace, like my Garmin watch does. It has a “current pace” feature but it is way off sometimes. You can also set up workouts, so that it will tell you to run hard for 20 seconds, then cue you when to jog, then start again (did that make sense). Lastly, it has various training plans you can use from 5K training to marathon training.

LoseIt!

I use this app for tracking my nutrition. It’s so simple and straightforward. They have a huge list of foods that you can search, but if you can’t find a specific thing, you just scan the barcode on the food item. You can set calorie goals for the day, depending on if you tell the app how much weight you want to lose by a certain amount of time. You can also just put that you want to “maintain” weight. I like using it so I can track my macronutrients and make sure I’m getting enough protein, carbs and fat. I wrote a more in-depth review here.

GymBoss Interval Timer

You may have heard of GymBoss timers (like physical timers). Trainers use them in videos because they beep whenever your interval is up, as opposed to looking at your phone or watch every few seconds. Well, there’s an app for that! I’m sure there are plenty of interval timer apps but I really liked this one. You set up your intervals and it beeps every time an interval is over, and every time you need to start a new interval.  You can repeat the sets for however long you want it to go for. You can save each workout you do so that you don’t have to re-set everything up each time you need it. The only downside is I think when you lock your phone it won’t beep, so make sure you turn the lock screen off.

Nike Training Club

If you’re looking for workouts to do, then this is a great app for you. You can pick from different goals, such as Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, Get Focused. I personally don’t know the difference between get lean or get toned but I digress…

You put in whether you want beginner, intermediate or advanced, and what you want to train, and it will crunch out a workout for you. It gives you pictures for demonstrations and tells you how many reps/how long to do the exercise for. Great for when you’re at the gym and not really sure what to do!

Others

Here are a few other apps that I found, or that I have had friends rave about.

MapMyRun

This is another running app similar to RunKeeper. I haven’t used it but I think most people either use RunKeeper or MapMyRun. Looks like MapMyRun is compatible with the UnderArmour heart rate monitor which is pretty cool. Try each one out to see which one you like best!

Nike+ Running

Yet another running app. I actually know a lot of people who use this one too. It tracks your runs, but is also a community. You can do “challenges” with other people, and it also gives you training plans depending on your goals. The cool thing I like about it (that I’ve seen a lot on Instagram) is you can choose a photo and then overlay your Nike+ stats over it, so you can post on social media. Like this:

Sleep Cycle

I actually used this when I had an iPhone. It’s not a fitness app per se, but it’s good to know how much you’re sleeping and whether it’s restful or not. Jury is out on whether it is reliable data or not, but it is pretty cool to try out. It did correspond to when I’d wake up in the middle of the night and stuff. It analyzes your sleep and then wakes you up when you’re in the lightest phase of sleep (as opposed to in a REM cycle). You set your alarm for a 30 minute period, so that it will wake you up within that time frame.

Blogilates

I love Cassey from Blogilates, so I had to throw this in here. I didn’t get a chance to download her app when I had an iPhone, but I need to check if there is one for Android. (Update: It is available in the Google Play store). You can access her videos through the app, along with recipes, her community and her monthly workout calendar. If you’re not familiar with her, check out her YouTube channel! She’s always so vibrant and positive, it’s hard for it to not rub off on you while you’re doing her workouts. Also, they burn.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but these are the apps I use the most, as well as others I’ve heard about. I always love downloading new apps and experimenting, so if I have one to add to the list, I’ll make sure to write an updated post!

Which health and fitness apps do you use? 

Do you use something not on this list? I want to know so I can download it!

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02-10-2014

Workout Plan For The Week

Do you need a week long workout plan? I decided to put together some workouts I have created, and videos into a 7 day workout plan for you, that you can follow this week!

If you like trying new things or just want to switch up your routine, then this is perfect for you :)

Here we go:

Monday

gym workout

Get Pumped At The Gym

Tuesday

30-60 minutes cardio of your choice

Wednesday

Lower Body Blast



Thursday Torch Those Arms

Friday

Off

Saturday

Sunday

There you have it-a week of workouts! Feel free to move around days, or the rest day to whatever works best for you. Also, if you want a second rest day, use the Tuesday cardio day as a rest day.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of these workouts!

I’m excited I figured out how to add Pin It buttons underneath pictures, so please feel free to pin things/follow me on Pinterest :)

Which of these workouts do you want to try?

What types of workouts would you like to see more of? I always love feedback!

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01-17-2014

My First Hot Yoga Experience

Earlier this week, my local lululemon store posted that they were having a Blacklight Yoga Party on Thursday, at a studio in my area. I quickly RSVPed for my sister and me because we had never done hot yoga before.

I was really nervous…I was afraid of sweating an insane amount and being stinky and having people be disgusted (sometimes I over-think things). My yogi friend assured me that everyone will probably smell and be insanely sweaty.

I went to social media for other tips for a first time hot yoga-er, and some common ones were:

  • Drink a lot of water in the days leading up.
  • Bring a big towel.
  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Bring an open mind.

I absolutely loved it. I have had this instructor before at lululemon’s community classes, and usually it’s pretty mellow, but this class was really upbeat and fun. We got light-up bracelets at the door too!

The class started with upbeat music, and once Timber by Pitbull & Ke$ha came on, everyone was singing and grooving along to the beat. PS – I’m obsessed with that song, I could listen to it on repeat.

This was certainly the most challenging yoga class I’ve taken. Obviously, because it was hot. But also, the sequence of movements and how long certain poses were held made it tough! The good thing was that the room wasn’t TOO hot-about 97-100 degrees. I have read other reviews of hot yoga where people have said it was too hot to even concentrate, and that’s what I was afraid of.

When people say the heat helps you get deeper in your poses, they aren’t lying! I got into my deepest downward dog, usually I have to keep my knees bent, but this time they were straight and I almost got my heels to touch the ground.

Overall, it was a great class, and I love yoga in general. She ended it on a spiritual note, reading us a quote while we lay in corpse pose. I left feeling refreshed and really wanting to commit to adding more yoga into my life.

Blacklight + yoga = awesome

My clothes were definitely soaked through afterwards, but you really feel good! I would like to add in hot yoga to me exercise routine-just need to find the time and budget ;)

Have you ever tried hot yoga? Or yoga in general?

What are your thoughts about it?

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01-14-2014

4 Common Mistakes People Make When They Start Exercising

Is 2014 going to be your year? Have you committed to living a healthier lifestyle? That’s great!

You may be excited and ready to tackle everything that comes your way, but while your motivation is awesome, make sure you don’t make these mistakes in your new journey!

commonmistakes

Trying Too Many Things At Once. You may be excited to start eating healthier and workout out regularly, but don’t be too overzealous! For example, if you want to start eating healthier, try cutting out one “bad” thing for a week, then add another. It’ll be easier to manage cutting out soda the first week, then processed food the second, and excess sugar in the third, than it would be to try to cut every bad habit out at once. Same thing goes with the gym; you may want to hit the gym every day, but start slowly. Your body is just getting used to this. Start with 2-3 days per week, then add on as you get accustomed. Trust me, if this is your first time lifting (or you’re just getting back into it), you will be sore even with only 2-3 days of working out!

Not Setting Proper Goals. What exactly are your goals? Do you want to lose weight? Gain muscle? Setting proper goals is key, as well as attainable goals. You can’t expect to lose 50 lbs. in 1 month, or squat 100 lbs in the first few weeks. Set small goals at first, such as, “I want to lose 1 lb. a week,” or “I want to lose 5% bodyfat.” SMART goal setting is a great way to set attainable goals.

Not Researching Proper Workouts. Just as you need to set proper goals, you need to assess what it is you want to accomplish. You may try out everything: lifting, running, Zumba, spin, etc. Do you want to run 5K? Or be able to do pull-ups? Because both of those will require totally different training. If you want to run a 5K (or any distance), research different training plans. Before I started marathon training, I read 3 books by 3 different authors on 3 different training approaches. Find the best one that you think will work for you. If you don’t think you will make it to the gym 5 days a week, then don’t choose a plan that has you in the gym 5 days a week!

Not Eating Enough. If your goal is to lose weight, you may think the easiest way is the good ol’ “cut 500 calories per day out” and exercise. But if you’re exercising on a regular basis, then you need to make sure you are fueling your body correctly. You may be surprised at how many calories you actually need. I thought 1,500 calories would be enough for me, then put my stats in multiple calculators which told me I should be eating anywhere from 1,800-2,000 calories! I don’t have a specific one that comes to mind, but google “calorie calculator” and try out multiple ones. Also track your intake for a few days to make sure you’re eating enough. I like the app Lose It! because you can add or scan in foods, and it gives you a pie chart breakdown of your macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat). I talk about this app more here. Remember, calories are not the enemy!

What advice and tips would you give?

Have you experienced any of these mistakes?

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12-20-2013

The Importance Of Warming Up

Yesterday, I was reading this post by Tony Gentilcore on pre-workout warm-up steps. I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at warming up before runs, but when I’m in the gym lifting, I make sure to warm-up every single time.

The thought of lifting heavy weights and putting that load on my joints before warming up makes me cringe. And yes, I will try to warm up more before runs too ;)

warm up tips

Why You Should Warm-Up

Tony states:

Taking the time to warm up properly is crucial not only for optimal performance on the field, but also for continued progress in the gym—and it serves several functions:

  • Increases body temperature.
  • Improves joint lubrication.
  • Engages the nervous system to a larger degree.
  • Improves extensibility/flexibility of muscles.
  • Grooves movement patterns.
  • Better prepares you for a back-alley fight against a pack of zombies. You know, just in case.

Given that many of us spend an inordinate amount of time hunched over a desk in front of a computer on a daily basis, the warm-up should target the areas of the body that tend to be most problematic: the glutes, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and core, to name a few.

How To Warm-Up

I used to just run on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes as a warm-up, but now I do that and make sure to get in some dynamic movements as well.

Tony suggests starting off with foam rolling because, “we tend to accumulate knots, adhesions and scar tissue in our muscles, which affect their extensibility, or ability to lengthen fully. If left unattended, these knots can become problematic and lead to muscle strains and other injuries.” Therefore, foam rolling before lifting helps release some of those knots, and get your muscles to fully lengthen.

Here are the exercises he suggests doing in your warm-up:

I usually change my warm-up depending on whether I’m training upper body or lower body that day. For a full-body workout day, I suggest you try out Tony’s warm-up.

Here’s how I warm-up for lower body days:

  • 2 min incline walk, then 5-10 min jog.
  • Slow body weight squats (10-15 reps)
  • Glute bridge (10 reps), then single leg glute bridge (5 on each leg).
  • This is all in one move: forward lunge, step back into reverse lunge, then feet together for a squat. Repeat 5x.

Upper body days:

  • Same treadmill warm-up.
  • 10 push-ups, then 10 knee push-ups
  • 10 Dive Bombers
  • 10 small arm circles, forward, then backward, 10 large arm circles, forward then backward.

But That’s Not All…

Do you think your car would perform optimally if you walked out on a 20-degree day, turned on the ignition, and then ramped it up to 60 mph on the highway without first letting it warm up?

Once you do the warm-up, you still continue the warm-up before doing your sets. For example, before setting up to do a bench press, I usually do lighter weight dumbbell presses to get my body ready. Tony discusses this in more detail in his article.

A good warm-up only takes about 10 minutes. Make sure to go through the exercises slowly, and it will help you lift heavier when you get to your main lifts.

Do you make sure to warm-up before every workout?

How do you warm-up?

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11-19-2013

7 Tips To Aid Muscle Recovery

I thought of writing this post today because currently I can’t straighten my arms from being soooo soreeee. I did a chest and back workout yesterday which included pull-ups…which I haven’t done in months! The first few days of lifting after a long hiatus are always the worst in terms of soreness.

While sometimes you can’t avoid soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), there are ways to promote muscle recovery, and feel back to normal faster. Here are tips that have worked for me, and may help you to avoid the DOMS!

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  • Have something with protein after every workout. I usually try to have a protein shake as soon as I get home, or if my workout is timed right, I get home and just have dinner. Protein aids in the repair of exercise-induced damage to muscle fibers. [1] Every time you go to the gym, you are damaging and tearing your muscle fibers. What you do after the gym is what matters, because once those fibers heal is when you will see your gains (i.e. – lift heavier). Active states:

Heavy resistance exercise increases the rates of both protein synthesis and breakdown in muscle for at least 24 hours after a workout. Unless a protein-containing meal is consumed during recovery, breakdown will exceed synthesis, resulting in the loss of muscle mass.

I usually try to get around 20-30 grams, and within 30 minutes of my workout ending.

  • Stretch. I always try to stretch after every workout. Your muscles are nice and warm, and this is the perfect time to stretch them out after they have tightened up during your workout. According to MIT:

When you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.

  • Ice, use heat, BioFreeze, etc. If something feels swollen, like a joint, ice it to decrease inflammation. I’ve also tried “contrast therapy” after long runs or hard workouts. Get in the shower, use cold water for 30 seconds, then switch to hot water, and repeat 4-5 times. If a muscle is just plain sore, applying a heat pack can help it relax. My physical therapist also recommended BioFreeze for times when ice isn’t convenient. It’s like Bengay or IcyHot but with less chemicals…and definitely makes whatever area you’re using it on feel nice and cold! I was applying it to my shins and calves before bed.

  • Foam roll/self-myofascial release. I don’t think I need to talk about this too much. Foam rolling has so many benefits for your muscles, despite sometimes being painful! It helps release muscle adhesions (knots) in order to help muscle recovery, and allows your muscles to move much smoother. If you don’t have a foam roller, use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. I like it better anyway because it’s smaller and can really get into those hard to reach muscles. When you hit a tender spot, stay there for 20-30 seconds, and/or also try flexing and unflexing the muscle (similar to ART). Foam roll first, then stretch.
  • Take supplements. Magnesium is something many people don’t get enough of, and it helps greatly with muscle recovery, nerve function, and also helps you get better sleep. [2]. I also take L-Glutamine and have taken BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) before. L-Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to ease trauma, and halt the breakdown of muscles.[3] BCAAs support muscle protein synthesis and also can decrease muscle soreness such as DOMS. Read more benefits of BCAAs on Charles Poliquin’s website – he’s a well-renowned and respected trainer.

So there you have it folks. Those are just some ways that I help my muscles recover. It really is important to remember that what you do OUT of the gym matters more than IN the gym. Make sure to get enough sleep, hydrate, etc. to take care of your muscles and you will see the results you want.

What tips would you add to this list? Which of these haven’t you tried yet?

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10-15-2013

Quick Abs Workout

After a long run or workout, if you’re like me the last thing you want to do is a core workout. I just want to foam roll, stretch and shower. Which is why I made this quick and easy abs workout for you!

Instructions: Do 2-3 sets with 12-15 reps of each exercise. I usually do 2-3 sets depending on how I feel/how hungry I am ;)

abs

Here are some YouTube links for each exercise, in case you’re not familiar with some of these:

Reverse Crunch

Scissors

Bird-dogs

Bicycle Crunches

What are your go-to core exercises?

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10-08-2013

Tips For Getting Back Into The Gym

The NYC Marathon is 26 days away! While I’m excited for the race, and have enjoyed training (for the most part), I’m ready for a break from running and to get back to heavy lifting at the gym. I can’t wait!

I know that when I go back, my strength will be way less than last year. I will basically be like a beginner…since body weight squats even make me sore right now!

I figured I’d share some tips with you all for if you have taken a lifting hiatus and plan to go back, or are a beginner looking to get into the gym. The gym can be an intimidating place, but once you conquer your fear or nervousness, you will feel awesome lifting weights!

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1. Start With a Light Weight – Especially if it’s your first time doing an exercise. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried something new and put a weight I thought I could do on the machine, and then not be able to even move it. Besides being slightly embarrassing, you also want to stay safe. Trying to squat or deadlift a weight that is way heavier than you should could hurt you, either now or in the long run. Start light and increase with each set if you need to.

2. Do Basic Lifts - In the first few sessions/weeks, focus on mastering the basics, such as squats, chest press, and lunges. I am leaving deadlifts out because it is so important to have proper form. If you want to do this, make sure a personal trainer watches your form (if you’re a beginner). In the meantime, I’d do hip raises either on the floor or with a swiss ball to target the hamstrings and glutes. If you want to learn these basic lifts, ask a trainer on the floor, or watch videos online from reputable sources.

3. Practice At Home – If you’re nervous about trying something new at the gym, practice the general movement at home first. I like to do this when I find new exercises online. You don’t even need a dumbbell to practice, just set up and perform the movement. With a cable exercise it can be trickier…again, have a trainer help you at the gym if you need to…no need to be embarrassed!

4. Do A Full Body Routine – If you’re just getting back into lifting, or are a beginner, start with a full-body routine. This way, you hit all of your major muscle groups, and start to get your body used to lifting weights. Once you’re more experienced you can start doing body part splits (upper body days vs. lower body days).

5. Be Prepared – Don’t go into the gym with no plan, and end up just doing random exercises. 1) There should be rhyme and reason to your training plan 2) How will you measure your progress if you do a random routine each time? Write out your workout plan ahead of time, and track your weight, sets and reps while at the gym. Some people bring notebooks and stuff, I just write it all down in my phone. This way, in 4 weeks, you can see how much stronger you have gotten!

Do you have any tips you would add?

Have you ever taken a break from lifting? How surprised were you by your strength…or lack thereof ;)

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