the forgotten stepchild of your gym routine: back & chest

In any given week, my exercise routine will consist of a combination of the following: days at the gym (doing weights and cardio), hot power yoga, tennis, modern dance and ballet classes, golf, sexy dancing to Drake for Drake* while cooking, or trying whichever new class a friend has invited me to. However, I recently found myself mostly relying on gym days for exercise and realized, unfortunately, that I had become a two-trick gym pony: leg day and arms + abs day. Yikes!

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*Drake (dog). Isn’t he the most handsome dog you’ve ever seen?!

All of the non-gym exercise-related activities I engage in are full body workouts, which is easy to take for granted. Needing a nudge in the well-rounded gym routine direction, I called Ben for help. Ben is a personal trainer and he is very special to me, as he helped me overcome my fear of the gym and find a healthy relationship with exercise. A few years ago, I was dating this #hot #young #gymrat (which really puts a pep in your step as a woman over thirty, but I digress) and he was always asking me to gym it up with him. Eventually, I acquiesced. It had been almost a decade since I stepped inside a gym and I wasn’t exactly thrilled as Boy Wonder and I climbed onto the elliptical machines together. It was as if he were speaking in Charlie Brown Teacher Voice because all I heard was waah wah waah wah as flashbacks of how I used to spend hours upon hours at the gym torturing myself in my early twenties came rushing in. There was a tightness in my throat. I felt as though I may start crying. In that moment, I wanted to be anywhere but inside my own body, anywhere but in the gym.

Not long after, Boy Wonder and I broke up, and my first thought was THANK GOD! NOW I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE GYM WITH HIM ANYMORE! But, my second thought was, maaaybe I should try and work through this terrible, icky, no good, fear of the gym. Maybe.

Pulling up on my inner brave (you have inner brave, too!), I scheduled a consultation with a trainer at the gym. Ben met me with a warm smile and asked me a bunch of questions as we sat together in the lobby. Immediately, I was honest with him about having a history of eating disorders when I was younger, suffering from at-times debilitating negative body image, and that currently I was terrified of everything about the gym, but that I would like help getting over that fear. Ben was completely understanding and nonjudgmental which made me feel safe and slightly more at ease. I began weekly training sessions with him and he was so patient with me, ensuring I was comfortable before moving onto whatever new scary machine or section of the gym we hadn’t embarked on yet. It took months before I would go to the “meathead” free weights corner of the gym. In my mind, I was afraid all the meathead guys would judge my imperfect body and laugh or tell me to leave because I didn’t belong. It’s not rational, but it was a very real fear I had at the time. Slowly, I realized that everything I was so afraid of never ended up being that bad once I tried it – and I also realized that 99% of the time no one is paying attention to you at the gym, as everyone is focused on themselves!

After several more months, I really looked forward to working out. My body felt stronger and lighter and I began to appreciate it for what it could do, instead of merely what it looked like. I was so grateful to have Ben’s support and guidance through this process because I never could have worked through this fear on my own. The relationship between a personal trainer and client becomes close quickly. Trainers become a therapist of sorts, but, for us it wasn’t one-sided. Ben shared all of his personal stuff with me, too, and as a result we grew to become great friends.

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Ben and I post-back & chest workout!

So, getting back to needing an update to my gym routine: I called Ben and he invited me to his new gym for a workout. He kindly reminded me that it is important to not neglect exercises specific to the back and chest, as they create great posture and are important to overall strength.

Here is the workout he created for me:

*PS I was a little too busy being in the moment to remember to write down the amount of weight I did on each machine, and I only had Ben take photos on one machine, but life, ya know?! In the future, I will try to be a better rememberer!*

Before any workout, spend 5 minutes warming up on a treadmill. I usually do a 50% incline at a brisk walking pace.

3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise

Seated Cable Rows

Seated Lat Pull Down (with bar in front)


Reverse Fly Machine

Hoist Machine Lat Pull Down with Close Grip

Seated Tricep Push Down (reverse dip)

Follow any weight training with 20 minutes of cardio. I either do the elliptical or walk on the treadmill at 100% incline for as long as possible then switch to elliptical. Remember to stretch afterward!

Reverse Fly Machine (starting with your arms in front of you, then pushing them open to the sides).

Also, if you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, here are some great resources:

National Eating Disorders Association

Gurze Books

The Renfrew Center

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