Pushing it to succeed

Last week, because of my travel schedule and limited access to gyms, I could only do two of the three days of Rachel Cosgrove’s Base Phase. That’s fine – there only two workouts anyway, so you’re supposed to alternate A/B/A with B/A/B; I did A/B last week and will likely only do A/B again this week, in preparation for my marathon on Saturday. There are now a whole bunch of us that are going to do the Rachel Cosgrove plan at the same time (anyone else want in??), so I’ll just keep doing Base Phase until everyone is caught up! It’s good for me.

PS – how cool is it that Rachel Cosgrove herself is cheering us on?!

This was all what I was thinking last night when I headed to the gym. However, when it came time for my workout, I found myself working hard (and getting really sweaty)… but not working smart. Instead of trying to increase the weight for each exercise from what I did last time, I got all in my head. After killing my traps last week, I was very cognizant of my form, and I intentionally used really light weights (5 lb dumbbells) for my reverse flys (compared to the 15 lb and then 10 lb dumbbells I tried last week). Near the end of my workout, I realized I was totally half-assing it on almost every exercise. I was sweating pretty hard (mmm, love having coworkers sharing my gym and seeing me all gross), but I was also getting through the last few of my 10 reps without really struggling, meaning I should have been using heavier weights. Result: no sore traps… but actually, not much soreness in my body at all.

I know a lot of people would see that as a good thing. I, however, absolutely love soreness. As long as it’s not too much (injury alert!), I take moderate soreness as a sign that I worked hard, challenged my muscles, and now they are rebuilding stronger than ever before. Not every workout has to produce soreness – some workouts are just cardio/intervals and are intended just to burn calories rather than build muscle (sorry, Rachel!). But when I intentionally lift and then I don’t feel sore the next day, I just feel like it was a waste of time. I want to see progress!

While lamenting how great I felt this morning (ha), it got me thinking about how I apply this to many areas of my life. Anyone who’s met me knows that I’m incredibly goal-oriented – whether it comes to running 26.2 miles or being the first on my wine tour bus to finish two bottles of wine by myself.

Okay, so maybe some of my goals aren’t the smartest.

That said, I do like to live life by striving to achieve things, and I think doing so can also be one of those things that helps you get to the core of finding your purpose (cue Avenue Q soundtrack). On the exercise front, my most successful workouts have been those where I made a plan, stuck to it, and also worked toward continuous progress (running farther than before, running faster than before, lifting heavier than before). My least successful and most time-wasting workouts were those where I just hopped on the elliptical and spun my legs around for a certain amount of time – which might have made me feel like I did my workout for the day, but didn’t actually do that much for increasing my fitness. (And yet, those “workouts” are so great for catching up on TV shows… sigh). I think this is a big part of why workouts like Crossfit have become so popular lately – you get to log your progress and strive for continuous improvement, plus you are just so focused on what you’re doing that you get more out of it. This is also why I think I’d prefer a spin class like Flywheel, with its Torqueboard, instead of the more feel-good SoulCycle (though let’s be honest, at $30 a class, I’m rarely if ever going to pony up for either one).

Overall, though, I think I made a big mistake yesterday in not at least trying for the heavier weights. Form is important, and I suppose it’s good that I made sure I was doing everything exactly right. But sometimes, you just need to go for it. I never in a million years thought I would be able to run a 5K, let alone a marathon, and yet… here I am. If I hadn’t decided to just give it a try, I never would have known what my body was capable of doing. (And in fact, I still don’t – one of these days I really ought to train and see how fast I’m capable of running…) One of my all-time favorite quotes, which I’ve mentioned a lot on my blog, is by Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It’s a lot easier said than done to push yourself hard, but the results are so worth it.

Now, I just can’t wait for my Base Phase B workout tomorrow. No more wussing out with light weights; I’m going to crush it!


  1. I totally agree — I feel so much more focused and purposeful when my workouts are part of a larger plan vs. just trying to get my workouts in for the day. When I can see actual progress and am working towards a specific goal or race, I’m so much more motivated. I also LOVE Flywheel because of the Torqboard, but didn’t really care for SoulCycle. It’s my latest (sadly, expensive) fitness addiction…oops.

  2. I seriously need to learn how to lift weights…

  3. Liz, I definitely want to try Flywheel at some point – we’ll have to plan a fitness date! I have a few other friends who have been bugging me as well.

    Jocelyn, you should do the program with all of us! I’ll lend you my book :)

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