Regaining Strength

Obviously not me

Since I was around 23, my fitness has been steadily and consistently improving. Some months progress was slow, but eventually it was always there. I’ve been consistently exercising and gradually upping the intensity, and I hadn’t had a real regression for the past 6 years. Sure, I took a long holiday here and there, but I managed to regain anything lost quite quickly.

Then lock-down happened. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve actually done all-right at setting up a home workout routine. I’ve still managed to maintain a lot (flexibility, core strength) and even improve some parts (leg strength). But in areas where I don’t have equipment at home (particularly pull strength, several calisthenics skills) and those I tend to avoid because I don’t enjoy them (push strength), I’ve really regressed. “No equipment” is an excuse to extent – I did go to the park occasionally to do pull ups on trees and eventually my rings, but it wasn’t enough and I knew it. The park near me was not an ideal place for sitting around and doing many sets, so the overall numbers were lower.

The key difference for me is that when I’m around other people in gyms and classes, I push myself much farther. Partially it’s just more fun, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little bit competitive. In retrospect, perhaps I should have taken online classes more seriously sooner, but I didn’t think it would have the same effect, plus I felt my set up wasn’t good enough (again, this is largely an excuse). I do some online yoga classes now, and while it’s not the same as in person for a variety of reasons, it is noticeably better than not doing them.

After quarantine, I was down to maybe one pull up (on a good day). That doesn’t seem like a massive change from the consistent 3 I had before (and on a good day maybe more), but the big thing that suffered was endurance. Before lockdown I could do 4 rounds of 5 close to my max (let’s say 3 real pulls, then 2 on lightest band).

So my first gym training session back, doing pull ups looked like this:

  • First set of 5 on the red band, the first couple okay but then started seriously struggling and had to pause between reps to finish it
  • Next set, switched to black band, thinking that should feel easy, but ended up with the same result
  • Third set, combined black and red (something I hadn’t done in over a year), and same thing happened again, where the last rep probably didn’t even count anymore
  • Fourth and final set, slinked back and got the purple band – and couldn’t even finish the set on that. It had been 18 months since I’d last used a purple band…

It was kind of funny and sad at the same time. I was then also so sore I could barely move for about four days. Other moves such as dips weren’t as bad, although not as good as before the pandemic either.

I then went to my home country for a few weeks and took my black band equivalent with me. There is a pull up bar in a door frame there, so I could train 4 sets of 5 on black every 3 days or so. The sets were spaced out way more than I every would at the gym (sometimes by hours) so I could actually finish them.

Two weeks after that first session, I went back to the class and could do 4 sets of 5 on the black band (okay, last rep or two were dubious). Not where I used to be, but at least more consistent and less embarrassing than that first time.

After that I was finally able to get back to classes I used to do for a couple weeks. There was a lot of soreness, but at least a little bit of improvement.

Then, we moved to another country. Mainly for fun, I suppose. So I’ve had to figure out a whole new training regime. We’re staying in temporary apartments and moving around relatively frequently, so installing a pull up bar or equivalent isn’t really an option. I haven’t seen any exercise parks, somehow Luckily though, I’ve found a couple gyms I really like, but their classes are a bit different to what I was used to. A bit more HIIT, higher and faster reps. Overall I’d say it’s having an effect even though I miss the old ways sometimes (but that’s just not really available to me right now).

On the bright side, I’ve also got back into silks, and it immediately felt better than it ever had before. I can actually do stuff now, not just basic climbs and floor tricks. I feel more comfortable in the air, I can take some time to move the silks around. Definitely still a beginner in terms of technique, but compared to before, it’s a whole different experience. In fairness, the last time I tried it was perhaps a session here and there in 2019, but mostly back in 2017/2018.

September* summary: Even though it feels like a fairly long time, it’s now been only 6-8-weeks into training “as normal” again (a time estimate one of my trainers mentioned initially). I’m actually feeling pretty great. Not necessarily back to where I was before in pull ups and some other skills, but same or ahead in a few others, at least (silks, handstand, and cardiovascular fitness). When I was originally learning pull ups, it took me about two months per band, so it’s good to know that it does in fact take less time the second time around – I can just about do one now, and I’m working on endurance. I’ll try to check in with more details soon.

* Publishing in October, as I managed to completely forget I had this sitting in drafts.

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