Tag Archives: bouldering

Never Compare to Others in the Gym

Never ever compare yourself to others in the gym. Heck, don’t compare yourself to others in other parts of life, too! I have always had trouble with this. I’m a competitive person and also a critical person. I’m very tough on myself and expect the best. This can be a deadly combination if you let your focus stray outside yourself. It can initiate a viscous self-hate cycle where you never achieve anything you want to and always harp on yourself for doing something wrong or being weak. Don’t do this. 

Creep shot of Chris' back from last night's workout...spoiler: he's not doing a back exercise

Creep shot of Chris’ back from last night’s workout…spoiler: he’s not doing a back exercise

I typically workout with men…as in Chris and some of our friends. This makes it doubly important not to compare yourself to who you may be working out with. I’m not saying to not draw inspiration or motivation from others–that is most important! It is great to have a partner who works hard and keeps you working hard as well. However, if it comes to a point where you’re comparing your strength, body composition, or speed to that person, it can get rather unhealthy. Even past unhealthy–dangerous. If I tried to compete with Chris on any strength exercise, tried to match his squat, I’d be snapped like a twig from the weight.

Triceps shot from a recent workout

Triceps shot from a recent workout

It’s important to understand your strengths and limitations before you barge into a workout. Are you ready for that heavy weight? Are you reaching too high? You need to re-evaluate why you’re working out and what you’re working out to. Write down your goals and write a healthy, safe way to get there. Sure, I want to get back into lifting heavy, but I’m not going to jump into huge weight right away. That’s a ticket to injury. I may be comparing myself to other strong-lifters and wanting to go farther faster, but I am me, and this is where I’m at right now. I’ve taken long steps to realizing this and saying this to myself. Understand who and where you are and understand how you can go forward.

Back shots, before and after

Back shots, before and after

If I compared myself to all the expert climbers in Boulder, I’d feel absolutely down in the dumps, angry and disappointed. However, I’ve only been climbing for months compared to them. Why on Earth would I compare myself to them? If you let yourself get caught up in the emotion of envy and self-hate, you aren’t going anywhere with your fitness goals. I remember a time when several workouts have been ruined by my bad attitude of comparing to others and my mood goes to the sharks.

Leg shot from a workout a little bit ago

Leg shot from a workout a little bit ago

Learn from this. Don’t compare to others around you. Compare to yourself. What did you do yesterday? What can you do today? Challenge yourself. Work hard. Train with a purpose and never, ever give up. Stay focused on yourself to stay hungry and fit!

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double head kitty pic

double head kitty pic

Work Those Push Muscles: Chest and Triceps Workout

So there are some workout match-ups that tend to be our favorites. One of those favorites is the sweet chest and triceps pair. It’s a great combination and leaves you exhausted afterwards (my arms are very upset with me now that I am typing). So Alana, you’re probably saying, why is it a good combination? Lemme spit some reasons at ya (not literally, come on).

Triceps brachii, large arm model - Muscles of ...

Triceps brachii

1. Convenience: being able to do your chest and triceps at once can really open your workout schedule. This is especially for the people who tend to try to workout every day or every other day. It gives you a few days to work on other muscle groups without worrying about overworking those muscles. Because ultimately, that will lead to injury. And that’s a no-no.

2. Effective: you’re going to get a much better chest and triceps workout if you work them together. If you’re doing it properly, every chest exercise you do will work your triceps a bit and every triceps exercise will work your chest. That’s just how our body works.

3. Power: it makes you feel huge. Think about the strength, effort, and power that goes into benching.

Anyhow, there’s a few reasons for you. Now let’s get to our actual workout. We have a few pictures for you of yours truly.

1. We started out with a super-set (one exercise after the other, no rest) of push-ups and triangle push-ups, working our chest in the first and triceps in the latter. You don’t need any equipment for this, so no excuses! Go until failure.

2. Our next super-set was incline chest press and incline pec fly. This really requires good strength and power (especially chest press). Unforunately, no pictures of us doing this. For chest press, you sit on the inclined bench, and push your arms straight up.

For pec fly, get in the same seated position. But start your arms out, like you’re going to give a tree a hug, and bring inwards (you tree-hugger!).

3. For this we didn’t do a super-set, because we wanted to spot each other for bench press. Personally, I’ve lost a lot of my strength, and can’t bench nearly what I used to (you’ll see low weight in the picture, the bar = 45 lbs). It’s just good to be there and spot for each other to get the weight up and getting help getting it down. We did decline bench press. Go for a good weight and, as usual, go til failure.

4. For our last super-set we combined triceps cable press and double-hand triceps extension. This really killed our triceps (in a good way!). For anyone uncomfortable with triceps exercises, I find that the cable press is an easy pathway to get comfy with working those triceps. You position yourself with the feet shoulder-width apart, facing the cable, and press down the steel triangle or horse rope down and bring your arms back to 90 degrees.

For triceps extension, grab a good weight and place behind your head and do vertical raises.

5. And lastly, to end our muscle workout, we did a cable cross-press. This will get a good pinching burn in your chest and triceps. We juiced out the rest of our strength through these. Always go to the end of your workout. Never stop pushing. Unless you feel sharp pains, THEN STOP. Stand away from the cables, grab each cable in each hand and cross over your hands.

For this entire workout, we did four sets of everything and pushed to failure. It could range from 8 to 100, it’s up to your body and your strength. We ended it with some excellent twenty-minute bouldering where Chris finished a new route that had been challenging him for weeks!

Please let us know if you have any questions! Cheers!

Rest and Recovery Days (We Take A Lot)

Looking at this past week, we only went to the gym three out of five days. Sunday was shoulders and climbing, Monday was legs and climbing, and Wednesday was arms and climbing. (Climbing=Bouldering, until we get more gear) That means that Tuesday and Thursday were more or less rest or recovery days, but this isn’t completely the case. Everyone works out for a different reason. Some people want to feel better, some want to look better, and some actually enjoy it. Although the first two are true for myself, I would never work out as much as I do if I didn’t enjoy it.

Rock climbing on the wall of Voiron, Auvergne ...

Rock climbing on the wall of Voiron, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes championship (Isère, France). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going to the gym is considered a leisurely activity in my daily planner because 95% of the time, a trip to the gym is on the same level as playing video games. The other reason that they weren’t rest days is based on how active one’s lifestyle is outside of designated workouts. On both of those days, I biked over ten miles to and from jobs throughout the day. It was on a cheap mountain bike, and there were lots of uphills and changes of direction and pace. Also, I was in the water for hours treading and teaching children how to swim. I was never moving too quickly, but overall I probably “swam” a thousand yards (I should calculate, or try to, some day.) Finally, everyday I walk a dog in the foothills, and those hikes/walks are usually around 3 miles long. According to my former Taekwondo master, hiking is the greatest form of exercise in the world… even greater than taekwondo. (He is an 8th degree black belt)

Hiking Symbol


So never feel bad about taking a day off from the gym! Especially if you have an active and healthy lifestyle. Many people don’t realize just how active they are! Do you clean the house? Pick up your children and carry them around? Mow the lawn or garden? Walk the dog? Shovel snow or rake leaves? Walk up and down stairs all day? All these activities can be extremely taxing on the body and while you might not get the same effect of lifting weights in sets and reps, you can still get a heck of a workout from it.



Furthermore, rest is good as long as you don’t take too many days off it you’re trying to reach a certain goal. Some studies show that you won’t lose muscle gains for eight days, and cardio gains for three days. Now, I would not recommend taking more than two days off in a row because that should be enough recovery time for your muscle fibers, but don’t be too hard on yourself for taking some rest!

Collage of varius Gray's muscle pictures by Mi...


Letting your body over-recover is much better than not letting it recover. You want those fibers to undergo fancy scientific processes like protein synthesis so that they come back bigger and stronger. Skip the process, and risk losing the growth that you worked so hard for. Working out, eating right, and sleeping right are the easy parts… your body is doing all the hard work, just get your mind in the right place. Never be too hard on yourself (I can’t take my own advice) and always try to enjoy what you’re doing. Working out every day, or nearly, for four years is really boring, unless you love the pain and struggle.

Keep up the good work!

How to Get Thor-Like (or Wonder Woman-like) Legs without Machines

Sometimes in life, you don’t have all of the resources you would like. When it comes to fitness and gyms, you may not have all the equipment you would like (or think you may need). This is actually something we’ve stumbled upon as the Boulder Rock Gym doesn’t have many (or any) machines, not counting cables. It is very tough to do a leg workout without machines because it’s difficult to isolate and work each muscle of the leg. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and honey, we’ve got it!

All you really need is 30 minutes to 1 hour. Not bad! As you might have read in our last postwe’re not in the shape we’re used to, so this was a relatively light workout for our standards, but nonetheless, a good leg workout (without machines). Let’s get started.

1. Start with a warm up. Since this is a workout “without machines,” ignore what we did (biked), and go for a run or use a real bike. Try for 15-20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio.

2. Strength time. Get some weights, a barbell, whatever you have. You can always be flexible and substitute for what you don’t have. It’d be great to pull out a jump rope too.

Start with squats. This can be with dumbbells, barbell, or just with your body. I wanna see 10-15 reps, 3 sets. 

Chris performing proper exhalation. VERY IMPORTANT

3. We did a superset (meaning performing a squat and then, with no rest, another exercise), matching squats with jumping rope for however long the other did squats.

4. After that, we did (explosive) step-ups with weights. Get something you can step up onto, at least a foot high. You could use a bench, a chair, whatever. I used our couch the other day (oops). So basically, step onto the platform, weight in hand, and raise your other knee as you do so. Let’s go for 8-15 reps, 3 sets, reps depending on what amount of weights you use.

5. And, for a superset, we did box jumps. You can see the “box” in the left part of the picture above. Basically, do as many jumps over that as you can while the other person finishes their step ups.

6. By this point, we’re feeling pretty tired because most of our exercises have been high-intensity cardio. We move onto plie squats, which I covered here. Turn your feet out with wide horse stance, squat, turn left lunge, then turn right lunge. That’s one rep. Again, look at the other post for more details. Try to get 8-10 reps, 3 sets. 

7. Finally, we end with deadlifts. This is basically a squat, but you start at the bottom position. Keep your back straight and form pristine. 8-12 reps, 3 sets. 

And there you have it. Afterwards, we were pretty exhausted, but we did bouldering for 25 minutes anyways, making our forearms scream. You just need to push yourself to your potential, you can make something great out of any workout. And you didn’t need any machines for this great leg workout! Remember, this workout does not take long. Again, let us know if you have ANY questions, we would really love to help out.


How We Are Going to Get Back in Shape (and you can too)!

So after figuring out our job situation, for the most part, we finally decided that it was financially reasonable and responsible to sign up for a gym membership. Ideally, as a personal trainer and a swim instructor, it’s a common perk of the job to (depending on where you work) get a free membership. As I work at a small scuba diving and swimming school, there is no fitness facility other than the pool, unlike the YMCA that I worked at before moving. Alana has a free membership to the YMCA that she works at but as it is over fifteen miles from home, it’s not worth me getting a membership, so she has that. As I look for another job for some extra hours on the extended weekends, it would be great to find a place with a lap pool where I can start some swim workouts, but until then it’s going to have to wait.

Looking around Boulder of all places, and trying to maintain a budget, we passed up on what seemed the logical choice in 24 Hour Fitness and joined the Boulder Rock Club. 24 Hour Fitness is not the kind of gym that I like to work out at because I am against that chain-feeling in general. At this location, I really got that feeling and, unless I am travelling and need a week pass to a place with everything, I don’t feel any sense of attachment to a place like that where it seems members are more so a person that is counted as they walk through the door. Again, since we’re in Boulder, we wanted to start climbing, but we also wanted a location with a general gym feeling… a locker room, a fitness center, weights, machines, etc. At a reasonable monthly rate for all these services, we took a chance with the BRC. Obviously I sacrificed a pool for the time being seeing as I am still very much so in a second job hunt.

So, having signed up two days ago we made our first trip yesterday. Time to try to get back into shape. Now, to go a little bit more in depth, there were some other factors that made us decide on the BRC. This location was a bit of a premature impulse decision but, in theory, we have no regrets because one of the best ways for individuals like us who are out of shape, but were once in shape not too too long ago, is easing back into things. We were athletes and we have ton of injuries that have healed and some that haven’t healed.

Joining a climbing club, and this location particularly, motivates us to do more body weight exercises and start to re-develop what really matters: joint strength and the like. You can have the biggest strongest muscles with amazing muscular endurance, but that doesn’t matter if your joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and everything else supporting and interacting with your muscle systems are not prepared to handle the routines that you put yourself through. I know from experience. So we took yesterday at a snail’s pace as an opportunity to ease back in and make sure nothing was acting up before we start to kick it into higher gears.

Here’s our workout, then we’ll talk some more.

At 8:40 a.m. with an empty stomach I applied some Tiger Balm Muscle Rub to my shoulders, upper back, lower back, and neck.

Then we went through about a 30 minute bouldering session at a relatively light pace, doing novice level routes, and earning massive forearm and hand pumps in the process.

Next we moved to the weight room, which is modest, and went through a short and VERY modest shoulder routine. (I have a superior lesion from anterior to posterior in my left labrum so this is always a cautious day, especially first day back.)

1. Standing Resistance Band Rear Deltoid Flies: 3 sets with a fitting band, 15-20 reps a set

2. Standing Lateral Dumbbell Flies: 3 sets with 15 lb weights, 10-12 reps per set

3. Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets, ascending weight from 35-45 lbs, 8-12 reps

4. Olympic Bar Shrugs: 3 sets, ascending weight from 95-115 lbs, 16-18 reps

5. Roman Chair Dips: 3 sets, body weight, 6 reps

6. Back Extension Apparatus, 3 sets, body weight, 10 reps

Now obviously, this was more or less our workout. We had to keep it short because we had to get to work and because we wanted to ease back into a fitness routine, and this was very much so easing. We hit most of our major and minor muscle groups in our shoulders, namely neglecting our front delts, scaptions, and rotator cuffs, which I rarely miss. It was not a tough workout because our warm up was not complete so I did not want to risk anything. I always warm up my shoulders before an upper body workout, especially shoulders, in order to prevent injury.

Also, we always try to incorporate some core-specific exercise into every workout, even on isolation days. Here is was the back extensions, because my lower back is very weak right now. The Tiger Balm also acts as a sort of warm up although it’s not meant to be a replacement. Why didn’t we isolate back, chest, arms, or legs first? Because I need to make sure my shoulder can withstand a workout before moving to another body part. It is extremely difficult to properly workout any body part when something is not working properly. Your muscles work tandem with one another. If something is out of whack, your whole body will be screwed up.  When I further ripped the tear in my labrum, my squat numbers plummeted because I was no longer able to balance the bar with one shoulder. So that is why we started with shoulders.

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

Weight training, brah

Now that it more or less passed the test we are prepared to hit the other body parts, and once they are all conditioned well enough we will begin complex circuit training routines. So my path I am hoping to follow, if all resources are in place, and always injury pending:

1. Mix isolated muscle group workouts with light bouldering and climbing

2. Increase weight and rep range within isolated muscle workouts

3. Increase duration of isolated muscle workouts

4. Begin to build cardio vascular capacity through cardio based workouts (run and bike)

5. Add cardio to muscle workouts through super sets

6. Begin full body circuit training 

The ideal workout week: ( I never allow for enough rest)

  • Isolated muscle workouts every/every other day, i.e. chest and triceps/back and biceps/lower body/shoulders and forearms
  • Full body circuit training, i.e. Spartacus workout version 1, three times a week
  • Bouldering and climbing every day in the gym, with these workouts
  • Cardio-based workouts (bike and run) three times a week

So that might look like: (in no particular order for each day)

Monday: Chest and triceps in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Tuesday: Back and biceps in the gym, 20 mile stationary bike ride, top-rope

Wednesday: Lower body in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Thursday: Shoulder and forearms in the gym, 3 mile treadmill run (probably not), top-rope

Friday: Core in the gym, basketball in the park

Saturday: back to the start…

I am never good at following those and I kind of ran through that but more or less we will want to start incorporating everything, easing back into our routines while adapting to our new lifestyle and workout resources. In terms of sleep, I try to get seven a night, and I take my vitamins and minerals and try to eat healthy, lots of fish… and dairy. I try to load carbs in the morning and taper off throughout the day, having a protein filled meal at night. I won’t include the scientific explanation for that process unless it’s requested.

But seriously, feel free to ask any questions about our workout or nutritional plan, and PLEASE feel free to ask for some help finding a way for you to get back into shape. Give us your background, resources, and goals and we can make it work. I love helping people achieve fitness goals.

Email us at alana.ppowell@gmail.com

Movie Night V2: Reel Rock Tour 7

For the past six or seven years (and we had no idea), the Reel Rock Tour has been spreading its love for “climbing” throughout the world (mostly the U.S.). This is obviously a big deal in Boulder, a hub for climbing and outdoor enthusiasts, so they decided to kickoff the tour here.

Marga and Megan were super nice enough to not only invite us, but also get us tickets to this amazing and popular event. The mini film festival started at 7:30 p.m. last night and we had made it just in time. One of Marga’s friends, Sheri, had saved us some great seats so we were very fortunate there because these were films you would not want to miss. They announced that the “theatre” at Chautauqua Park held 1300 people and that the event sold out for last night and tonight as well. On the trek up the hill to the big log cabin/barn where it was being held, we were given not one, but two free Clif bar samples! Awesome stuff Boulder. As Alana said, if Clif was trying to push their products, then they are in the wrong place since they’re already so popular here. And then the event began…

After some announcing and thank yous and introductions and what not they finally turned the lights off and began the show. First up was The Dura Dura, or the hard hard for our non Spanish speaking readers. Chris Sharma, a very “rad” American climber”, and Adam Ondra, a very not-rad Czech climber, competed against each other to conquer the hardest route ever climbed. It was old school vs. new school but in the end, they bonded and learned from one another. Afterwards, there was a short segment on the recent surge of powerful women climbers that have decided to not just sit back and do the easy routes, but get hungry and do the 5.13s and 14s despite the powerful moves that are required. It was a well-put together and informative film that capture some great climbing of the new hardest routes in the world that have been found in Spain. Really great stuff from amazing climbers.

Chris Sharma

English: Adam Ondra Deutsch: Adam Ondra Adam Ondra 

Then they decided to show what I thought was the best film of the night, The Shark’s Fin. The Shark’s Fin is a part of Mt. Meru in India and it is a ridiculous climb for alpinists because of the weather and altitude. The film gives a lot of background on Conrad Anker, one of the greatest alpinists of all time. After failed attempts to climb the fin in his past, Conrad has some unifinished business with his deceased best friend. Conrad puts together his 2008 expedition, despite one of the three members having gone through a skull-shattering ski accident. Through strokes, broken equipment, -25 degree temperatures, and frostbite, the close crew tries to make it to the “center of the universe” (as Hindus dub it) in their final attempt. The emotion of the story and beauty of the mountain make this film one anyone, climber or not, cannot miss.

Then there was an intermission with poorly organized giveaways! We could have gotten free gear but they didn’t explain what was going on! There was a headstand contest for the best prizes, but we are both HORRIBLE at them, especially me, so we didn’t even try. Alex Honnold, the star of the 4th film, signed posters and Sheri got one for Alana! We just wanted the next films to start asap because, thus far, they were incredible.

Next was the Wide Boys, a shorter film about crag climbing (climbing off-width cracks, using and contorting your body to hang on). It’s an insane looking and painful sport that is far less common than other forms. It is like ultimate fighting against a rock, or so they say. The film highlights Pete and Tom, two Brits that decide to leave the weak off-widths of Great Britain to climb all the cracks in the American Midwest. After two months of training in a cellar, the boys conquer them all and even end their “world tour” with an attempt at the Century Crack, the hardest off-width (that we know of) in the world. It has never been done before. This film had some great footage, but it was short and failed to really develop their story; there wasn’t the same connect as the first two films had. The emotion didn’t emerge.

Finally, the film that had everyone’s hands sweating, Honnold 3.0. Climbing is actually very safe if done with proper prep and gear. Alex Honnold is the exception to that notion of safety. Alex is arguably the greatest soloist in the world, and not a shabby sport, speed or boulderer at that. This film shows his reclusive life living out of his van with his new girlfriend. Alex trains in Bishop, CA, where Chris Sharma lived for quite some time, in order to prepare his next big feat, something that has never been done before, a triple crown of Yosemite up Mt. Watkins, the Nose, and Half Dome, in under 24 hours. He’s done all three by himself but 7,000 ft of vertical walls with free soloing (NO GEAR) 95% of his climbs, and fatigue setting in, just how safe can this invincible fearless superman be? The footage of an amazing attempt at an amazing feat was top notch and Honnold is such an interesting character that getting to see him not in hiding is a treat. A great film.

Well that’s it, we left afterwards and forgot to support the Access Fund and the American Alpine Fund by joining both for 35$, usually it’s way more than that! Silly us, we were tired and forgetful. See if the tour is coming to a place near you because its worth it!