An Endless Journey to Fitness! And Some Updates!

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Hi everyone,

I am feeling rather sorry for my poor wee self today. After being to the dentist for a filling I have been in pure agony on and off all day. And I wonder why I haven’t been to that evil place in 4 years?!! OK OK, I should have gone for my check ups, but I hate pain and I hate injections!  It got so bad on my way to the gym that I had to turn and go home (via the Pharmacy to get me some drugs!).  Surely after a filling, things should be better?? The Dentist did say I may need a root canal – pooh!

Anyway, I have a some exciting happy news for you too.  My friend and fellow Girl Gone Strong, Nia Shanks and I have been listening to our readers and we are collaborating on an exciting product for, as Nia would say, “Y’ALL”!  I don’t want to give too much away at this early stage, but we plan to help you take your training to a new level by combining our skills and our experience while considering the needs and goals of our audience.  I am very happy to be working with Nia as she is one of the most honest, caring and funny people I know.  Not only do we share the same sense of humour, but also the same philosophies when it comes to advising people on training and diet. So we will provide you with nothing but informative, useful and honest material that you can benefit from in the real world.  Stay tuned!

Now for a little reflection and evaluating on one of my past videos.  In March 2010, I filmed a gym-based workout; I did many of the same exercises I do today but since then I am much stronger and my form is 200% better!  What I can’t believe, with all the YouTube Fitness Video Critics out there (plus my mysterious “disliker” for all my newer gym-based videos), is that there are no “dislikes” on this video.  I actually cringed so much when I watched this that I want to “dislike” it myself, and then delete delete delete!  Instead I thought I would turn my negative feelings about this Video, into a  little lesson, or a little reflection on the journey gone by.

Here is the video in question.

Things to look out for:

  • My lower back rounding and pelvis “tucking” on my back squat
  • My round-back deadlifting, tugging the bar; letting the bar drift forward; using very little hip drive and mostly my back to lift.
  • Going too heavy and not understanding the movement patterns of each exercise.
  • My single-leg “deadlift” looks more like a squat to me as I clearly have yet to learn a proper hip hinge movement.
  • Chin-Ups weren’t the worst, but all I cared about was pulling myself up and had no understanding or consideration to form. My shoulders drift up and I am only getting my chin over the bar, rather than sternum to the bar.
  • Dips – what a difference in my strength but otherwise not too bad.
  • Finally, my hair was so blonde and I had no arse!

Now, here are a few examples of my improvements. You have probably seen these before, but I just want to show how, even when you think you are good (like I did back then), there is always room for learning and improvement! But also, it’s easy to think you aren’t improving at all until you look back to where you used to be.

My Survival Challenge Back Squats. Still not perfect, but I at lease have much better lower flexibility and hip mobility.

My Sumo Deadlifts. It may only be 70kg on the bar, but you will notice how I use my hips, pull back as I stand up (keeping the bar close) while keeping my back and neck neutral. Also I now place my hips higher to allow me to take advantage on my lever lengths; before I started in more of a squat style which I find very difficult!

Here are clips of my Deficit Deadlifts, weighted Chin-Ups and Weighted Dips. Form is much better on all 3 exercises.

Although I am not using a bar in these here I am doing my new favorite exercise, the KB Single-Leg Deadlift. See the difference in my ability to HINGE. Two years ago, I didn’t know what “Hip Hinge” even meant!! Ok, so it’s not perfection, but see the progression?!

Why am I writing all this? To highlight the fact that none of us will ever have all the answers, but that doesn’t stop us progressing. We move through our life like the “Mario Brothers”, “Sonic The Hedgehog” or your wee puppet-man from “Little Big Planet”; we gather information, skills and understanding along each level of our journey and use it to tweak our form, our diets, our outlook or goals. Two years ago I thought I was good, but I wanted to be better. So, I asked questions, researched different sources, tried a variety of new things and found that the only way to “have it sussed” is to realised you’ll never have it all sussed. This is a great realisation because it helps us keep bettering ourselves, rather than sit arrogantly thinking you know it all. Imagine I had done that two years ago!!  Never stop seeking answers or wanting to improve – you can see from the evolution of this blog, how much difference a couple of years can make, not just to a booty ;), but to a whole body, in strength, in appearance and in movement!  I may not be ready to face “Robotnik”, or own all the stickers in the Planet, but I think I spend a little more time searching for the tools first.  Come to think of it, Neghar Fonooni wrote an article “Are You Using the Right Tools”, which ties in nicely with this.

Hopefully by illustrating my own experience will show you how much difference it really makes to keep learning, especially if you are struggling to master some exercises, break a strength plateau or just feel good that you are improving.  Learning and applying knowledge is the only way forward.

Cheers!
Marianne

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25 Responses

  1. Lynda says:

    Hi Marianne

    Today was a real eye opener for me. I was doing Sumo squats and my trainer filmed me on his phone and OMG Your video jumped into my head and there I was thinking I was doing a ‘great’ job I looked exactly like you (an older version lol) in you first squat video and to quote you ‘My lower back rounding and pelvis “tucking” on my back squat (this was due to years of back pain, tight hip flexors, weak low back and glutes) . So hip flexors stretches have been added to my program as well as swiss ball glute bridges and sball hamstring curls. Just wondering how long you took to improve and anything you did that helped as well. I’m so tight in my hip flexors and very quad dominant. I must admit it was really good to see the video – I wish he could film all my sessions 🙂

    • Marianne says:

      Good to hear Lynda 🙂 Can I recommend you do the bridges with the ball. The reason is that you get much better glute focus without adding more instability. Besides it’s quite difficult to get full hip extension on a ball, without compensating with other “accessory” muscles. But the hammy curls on the ball are fine … super tough though *eek*

      You should think about filming more.

  2. Gina says:

    This is some terrific info. You are too critical of yourself though! I think it is from your past workouts and your mistakes that have made you the super strong woman you are today. And sharing those videos and the corrections on form are VERY helpful and going to help make me a super strong woman too. 🙂
    And on your next post with the Girls Gone Strong T-shirt is a super GREAT shot of you. I never noticed how freckly (I love freckles) and beautiful your skin is!

    • Marianne says:

      Aw thanks Gina! I have quite a few freckles on my face, I like them too.

      I guess looking back, I was so critical because I now know what to look for. I am actually thinking of re-doing some of my tutorials; not because they are wrong, but because I can give better cues now. But anyway, that’s just me being a perfectionist 🙂

      Very glad that you found this post useful.

      Cheers

  3. Lauren says:

    awesome videos as always 🙂 Very inspiring to see your progressions.

    I have a bad posterior tilt/tuck like you had in the first video and have been trying really hard to correct it. Do you have any particular exercises that you would recommend that helped you correct your form?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lauren, I would recommend focusing on hip mobility (especially the hip flexors), stretching and strengthening the hamstrings and trying different types of squats. The back squat will always make people’s pelvis want to tuck more than other variations, so maybe try front squats and goblet squats. When I did more of these, then my “tuck” decreased. Also, when I was doing my Olympic Weightlifting Course, we were taught to widen the stance a little more and point the feet out, so you make more room for your hips.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      • lauren says:

        Thanks for the tips Marianne 🙂 That helps a lot. I’ve already started doing some goblet squats and I’ll start trying to incorporate more front squats in too. I just find them really awkward as I cant seem to get used to holding the bar in that position. I’ve always had really tight hip flexors, so stretching is probably a big one i need to incorporate more.

        Thanks again!
        Lauren

  4. Sable says:

    Yay! Such a difference! And you’re even more beautiful/awesome now than you were then, which is saying something! =) Here’s a video on the bar position in the low bar squat I found useful: http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/platform_the_squat_bar_position . You probably won’t need to watch the whole video but its very informative. I’m actually only linking it because of your wrist position in the challenge video, because I was bending mine back as well. I’m not trying to criticize, just help in whatever way I can since you have helped me SO MUCH in my own fitness journey. Oh, and your weighted dips piss me off. Dips are evil =(.

    Hugs!!!

    Sable

    • Sable says:

      Marianne,

      Sorry for the second comment (and the derail), but I just wanted to tell you how absolutely inspiring you are to me. I’ve still been reading your posts and some of them have weighed heavily on me, particularly the “Dark Passenger” post (and the comment about your “pot belly! UGH! That’s so ridiculous and honestly almost sent me spiraling back into some very unhealthy coping mechanisms because if someone thinks YOU have a pot belly, then I’m darn near obese, haha). You already know about mine, so I feel no need to reiterate it, but I want you to know that you are the main reason I now have a mechanism with which to deal with it better. I’m still unable to work, which is frustrating, but my doctor and I have instead decided to treat training as my “work.” It’s something I can do and feel accomplished at and use in my treatment. It’s definitely hard having pain or an illness that no one can see, so i can very much relate to you on that. I ruminated on that post for a bit, but didn’t have the courage to say anything. I’ve been thinking about it again lately because I’ve been having trouble with my SI joint, enough that I’ll be going to the doctor soon. I’m pretty sure that in my case it’s because I’m “crooked” and my hips are rotated and my piriformis is tight. Anyway, my point is that my SI pain is a minor irritation compared to yours, and it’s generally only through certain ranges of motion. Every time I feel it, I think of you and can’t imagine how bad yours must be and yet you still train through it! It motivates me to keep trudging along through the gym and working on myself. So anyway, now that I’m all weepy and emotional and can’t go to my gym since it’s Saturday and it closed four hours ago, I’m just going to shut up before I potentially embarrass myself any further. =)

      Sable

      P.S. I love the video game references. I’m such a dork! <3

      • Marianne says:

        Sable, your message is just what I needed this morning. Thank you for your kind words! I am sorry that you are having pain at the minute 🙁 I hope it settles soon!

        What you shared has made me thankful that I have shared my obstacles here. I think there is this perception that fitness folk are “perfect” (physically), so that alone puts an enormous amount of pressure on to everyone else to seem perfect! If we share that actually many of us are living with pain/issues of some sort, and we still get insecure about “belly fat” or cellulite, then it levels the playing field and might even keep someone going when they wanted to give up.

        I don’t think you embarrassed yourself at all! This was such a lovely comment to wake up to – And you have inspired me! Even if you are a dork 😉 We can be video game dorks together LOL!

    • Marianne says:

      Hey, thanks for the link. Someone else actually sent me that too, after they saw that video. It was timely, because I was getting annoyed at the wrist pain. Since trying this new position, it definitely helps loads!

      Thanks you 🙂

  5. Tbone says:

    I might be interested in the video critique service. Also, I would love to see your training log! Just about to get back into a gym, I hope, so I could use a little guidance.

  6. Cita H. says:

    hey marianne,

    Havent heard from me in a while, I know. But it doesn’t mean I’ve been slacking:) I’m constantly checking out your page & I want you to know I really do appreciate all your hard work. I’ve learned more from you than any trainer or magazines!!! Now I’ve been really focusing on my form on my back squats & deadlifts. As you know…there’s a lot of smaller excersices I can do during the week to get stronger on my squats like: KB swings, back extensions, upper & lower back excersices for a a stronger back, barbell bridges. For Deadlifts I feel that a lot of your conditioning workouts are helping me out with my form; however my hamstrings are a little weak. Am I taking the right approach?

    I also feel like ever since I started lifting heavier…I’m starving even more. I feel like I should be increasing my calories….I think I’m burning my intake @ the gym!!!! Which is frustrating because I am giving it my 100%. Need your help!!

    Well….I hope you’re feeling better. I hate the dentist!!!!!

    Cita

    • Marianne says:

      Cita I think you are taking the right approach. Certainly all my KB workouts helped my form so much, then when I went heavier, I was better. KBs really help to iron out any mobility, stability and flexibility issues that may be affecting other lifts.

      If you are hungry, listen to that. Increase your calories for a few weeks and see if it makes any difference. Only you will know if it’s for the better or worse. I say go for it *happy days more food for you* 😉

  7. dayl says:

    Amazing progression over the last 2 years…very inspiring. Like your idea of assessing peoples clips although you might suffocate under the avalanche!!!! Between your good self and girls gone strong i have learned soooo much and seeing your progress i hope that by sticking at it and increasing my goals i too will progress. I will be 50 this year but i have never felt stronger, just wish there had been a resource like your site when i was much younger!!!
    Many thanks and keep up the good work…and hope the tooth feels better soon.

    • Marianne says:

      Thank you for your feedback Dayl 🙂 It makes it all worth while when you hear that you a really helping people understand where to go with their fitness goals. I am learning everyday too, because I want to seek the best information for my workouts and posts and pass on the knowledge to my readers. 🙂

  8. olga says:

    Great article! Absolutely agree with you, we need to keep training and getting better by learning from our mistakes. I always feel somewhat intimidated watching my own videos that were taken a few years ago. But it really does help.

  9. Niko says:

    Great to see your progression and so useful because these videos serve as real guide to these exercises. Very interesting to watch examples of how your form has changed and your points of view on aspects of that form too. One is one’s own worst critic, apart from the “mystery disliker” LOL and it’s a great help having someone with real experience over time giving a critique and commentary on their training and development – I shall learn a lot from this, thanks.

    Oh yeah, and continuing on that videogame theme – I’m liking the “Fallout” music in the third video! LOL 🙂

  10. Satya says:

    Good article, Marianne ! So , it seems like a good idea to film yourself while working out to check on your form and how much you need to improve.

    • Marianne says:

      I think so for sure! I would love to set up a little service for people to send me clips of their form for me to offer pointers. Because people training at home might not have access to a critical eye. It would be cheaper than a Trainer! Anyway, I don’t know what demand there would be for such a service.

      • KateM says:

        I think that sort of service would be great! Especially for kettlebell exercises (in my opinion). I have no one to learn from in person and would definitely use it!

        • Marianne says:

          Keep an eye out for it in the future. It’s something I could get up and running quite quickly and take it from there. I could develop it further in the future, but I could start it with a simple PayPal button and my email address to send videos to. Leave it with me and I will let you all know 🙂

  11. Gráinne says:

    Love the videos! The “don’t do as I do” one is especially helpful actually 🙂

    Hope your tooth is feeling better. It can sometimes feel worse and very irritated the night of a filling if it’s a very deep one (and it may have been if you might need a root canal) and then can be tender to bite on for a couple of days. It will be worth it eventually!

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