Dumbbells in the gym

Kicking off 2024

As you know, 2023 wasn’t a good year. But when the clock turned to midnight on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I talked about the past year and he reminded me what a GREAT year I’ve had with training achievements. And he is right! Despite the misery of 2023, I’ve never felt stronger, and I feel hopeful for the coming year.

Now let’s keep up the good work! I’ll continue to share my weekly fitness activities in the Weekly rundown link-up. It’s a way to document my training, and I enjoy following the other bloggers, see how they’re doing and get inspiration from them.

I took two weeks “off” the Weekly rundown so here’s a short recap of the last few weeks’ activities.

Fitness around Christmas

In the week leading up to Christmas, I got a heavier program with 4 by 6 reps (instead of 3 by 10-12 which I normally do) and I did some personal record lifts with a 45 kg squat, 43 kg deadlift (I think this was with the hex bar) and 37,5 kg barbell bench press. I wouldn’t do these every week (yet) but was happy about the achievement.

My gym was closed for 9 days and during that time I took a 7 day membership in my husband’s gym and trained there three days between Christmas and New Year. This was… interesting.

I’m so not used to equipment being occupied, and was enormously frustrated that I had to adjust my program (that I prepared the day before) for the only reason that all the squat racks were busy and that I felt awkward when the gym was crowded (I know this is silly). However, I did good things with dumbbells, I used the hack squat machine, and on the last day I finally got to do some sumo squats, RDLs and barbell rows.

The Christmas season of 2023 wasn’t particularly outdoorsy with neverending sideways rain, but I managed to get an 8,6 km walk done before Christmas, and 6,8 km on St Stephen’s day.

The first week of 2024

Monday – New Year’s Day

It was so good to get back into routine! On New Year’s day the gym was still closed but I did some at-home training with planks, deadbugs, high step-ups, weighted single leg heel raises, bicep curls, shoulder shrugs with dumbbells and barbell lunges. We shopped at Decathlon on New Year’s Eve, so we now have a short enough bar! We have quite small rooms in our house, so needing a short bar is a thing!

Sadly our old weight plates don’t fit, seriously we thought there are only two types of diameter for bars and dumbbells, and the bar is only 6 kgs so it’s only useful for balance exercises and to work on form. But we’ll get back to Decathlon eventually to buy correct plates, and at home I’m mainly after getting the balance part of the exercise anyway. Bulgarian split squats with this bar will happen asap!

Tuesday

A VERY slow day. Some late party nights over the New Year’s weekend made me decide to 100% rest my body this day.

Wednesday – back to the proper gym!

It was good to be back, but I didn’t have a lot of energy with some exercises. Just one of those days I guess because other exercises felt great! I did a good standard program.

Jävlaranamma blog

Thursday – walking, 6,95 km

Quite a nice day but it started cold, 4C, which is colder than it’s been lately but absolutely NOTHING compared to the north of Sweden these days, where they’ve had down to (take a deep breath) -48,5C (-55F)! Here it was a pleasant day and I went for a long-ish walk down the road. The sun was shining and the birds were singing, I even got a spring-like feel.

Friday – gym day

This wasn’t a great session. To begin with, I had forgotten that we changed the time for the Friday session, so I was late and there was no time to carb-prep either (I do nothing fancy but a banana 30-60 mins before training works wonders!) and I generally felt out of shape. Some exercises went ok, others just meh.

Jävlaranamma blog

I felt generally wobbly today, although the squats, dumbbell row, good mornings, Renegade rows and Bulgarian split squats went quite well. The chest press felt SO TOUGH but I managed 12-12-8 reps so probably not too bad. When I came to the shoulder press, my arms and shoulders were totally exhausted and I could barely lift at all. I managed 7-6-8(ish) poor reps.

My old friends the Bulgarian split squats – these are so much in my head. I tried them at home with no weights a few days ago and felt quite good. But with the bar on my shoulders, my gutsy me goes down the drain. I did the first set ok on the right leg, then felt extremely insecure about the left leg but had to decide to just do it, and managed 12 reps. I had to focus 120% on the ankle and hip stability and to tell myself I could do it. For the last set on the left leg I felt so shaky I had to stop after 4 reps (out of 6). This was so annoying because I don’t think it was about tired muscles but only my head playing stupid tricks with me. Still, at least it was probably my best Bulgarian split squats since before my injury. And I WILL crush them. Eventually!

Generally, this was not a good week in the gym. I felt I had less overall energy and power, and couldn’t help but wondering why – because of more crap food than usual over Christmas? Because I’ve chosen to have egg toast instead of protein waffles for breakfast, for more carbs, but instead miss out on the creatine? Honestly, I haven’t felt my best between Christmas and New Year and the only possible variable is what I’ve been eating. Even after going back to normal habits, I haven’t felt great and perhaps didn’t get all my calories this week.

In the near future, I’m going to focus a lot on nutrition. I’m back to my pre-Christmas eating habits but will modify a few things, to find the best plan that enables the best performance. Some people say they train to be able to eat – I eat to be able to train.

This may sound boring in our “foodie”-centred society, but my priority is to feel good and to be able to perform in the gym to build muscle (and bone), and have energy to go for long walks and other fun things. Last year was miserable with injuries and other BS, but it was also the year when I started cleaning up my diet, started focusing on protein, cut down unnecessary fat, stopped eating sweets other than on special occasions, and also ramped up my strength training. And despite various health issues, I’ve never felt better, and other health issues disappeared.

Also, my husband is a wonderful chef, we eat some amazing meals at home, and I don’t miss anything. I suspect there will be a separate blog post on this topic!

Saturday – indoor cycling, 12 km

We still have some cold weather, and the morning gave us remaining frost and just barely above zero temperatures. It was a perfect day to hit the indoor bike again, after a long time away from it. I did 12 km, “Greater London flat” which wasn’t the most exciting route but it had some uphills at the end, and I won a good sprint just before the finish too.

If you wonder what the odd thingy below the handlebars is, yes, it’s an old computer fan that my husband has repurposed for the bike.

Sunday – the long walk that didn’t happen

This day didn’t turn out as I hoped. I’ll do my high step-ups later but other than that it will be a slow day.

One of my big goals this year is to walk the 19k Wicklow Ecotrail. So walking is a big priority alongside leg/hip/core strength and stability. I have no idea how challenging the terrain will be for the 19k, but extra strength and stability has never hurt anyone!

I had planned a close-to-10k walk today but even at mid-day there were still lots of icy patches by the side of the road even in sunny areas. Frost, snow and ice is total no-no for me because I have the ambition to go through this year without broken bones. So for now, my walking ambition is to wait for better weather. Rain? Winds? Give it to me!! I can handle anything but ice!

With that statement, the first fitness week of 2024 is ended. How was yours? How is the weather where you are? (I know I’m blessed here despite the frost)

Thanks Deborah and Kim for hosting the weekly rundown! Believe it or not, I always try to keep these posts as short as possible. LOL! Maybe one day I’ll succeed with that.

26 responses to “Kicking off 2024”

  1. Kimberly Hatting avatar

    You’ve been busy! I love how you found all the good, from last year, and chose to focus on that despite all the struggles. Nice work on those Bulgarians!!!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, lots of good things happened last year after all but I’ve still mostly remembered the bad things so I needed that reminder from my husband!
      I have lots of work to do on the Bulgarians but as I always say, it’s just to keep doing them!

  2. Deborah Brooks avatar

    2023 was not my best year for a number of reasons. However, when I looked back to do my yearly recap, I realized just how much I did have to be thankful for. Wishing you a happy and healthy new year

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, I know you had a hard year too. Thanks for the well wishes and I hope we both get a fabulous 2024!

  3. Debbie avatar

    It’s great that your husband put 2023 in perspective reminding you of what a great year you really did have. We’re our own worst critics, right? I’m looking forward to seeing pictures from your long walks in 2024!

    1. Susanne avatar

      He was really spot on with that when I really needed it and it boosted my confidence for kicking off the new year in a way. I’m quite disappointed I didn’t get out for that walk today and next week’s weather forecast doesn’t look particularly hopeful, but warmer weather will happen and the camera will always be with me!

  4. Wendy avatar

    So I checked out that race and it looks amazing! I wish I could travel to Ireland and run the 19k. I will have to live vicariously through you. It’s nice that you have the same terrain where you are–you will be so well prepared! We always joke about how flat it is in Chicago and it’s hard to train for anything hilly here.

    Great work in the gym and I love that you are making progress! I added creatine to my diet about 2-3 months ago and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my strength gains. I also feel stronger on my runs. I’ve been really good about protein, but I think I found the missing piece. I hope getting back to your good eating habits will be the answer!

    1. Susanne avatar

      You’ll have to plan for Wicklow next year!! There are plenty of flights from the US to Ireland.
      I’m really looking forward to this race. The challenge, the scenery the whole experience, everything.
      Sadly we have nothing like the Wicklow mountains down here but at least we have hills – and lots of them! Then Kerry is close enough, with lots of mountain areas and there’s an ultra trail race there so I assume there are good trails. We might try to spend a weekend there during the spring.

      Thanks for telling me about your experience with creatine! This is what I had heard about creatine and it’s why I started taking it, I’ve learned about all the other benefits only later. I’ll take a dose tonight and again tomorrow morning. Hopefully next week I’ll be more back to normal.

  5. Chocolaterunsjudy avatar

    Sounds like a mixed bag but the holidays can wreak some havoc. And that’s okay — just get back to normal with no punishment. My husband is a good cook, but has littler interest in cooking healthy food.

    Nutrition is always a moving target, and it changes over our life.

    -55F? Yikes! Despite the snow, it’s just barely under freezing here, not windy, and it’s fluffy snow. The grayness though — that’s a different story!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, no matter good intentions, holidays will bring some different eating patterns which is fine as long as you still feel good (which I didn’t). No punishment is going on here, I don’t do such things. I eat what I want and enjoy it but then go back to my usual habits. Now something was obviously off but I’m sure I’ll be back to normal soon and I’ll only do some minor adjustments to my normal eating habits, because they were working mostly very well. For next Christmas I may be happy enough just having some fudge, mince pies and mulled wine as extra treats and ditch the fat food.

      Yes, that cold snap in Sweden was quite crazy. But there were people claiming it was lovely and “it’s fine, you just need to dress appropriately” as if it was that easy with -55!
      For me I can’t wait to have frost-free mornings again.

  6. Darlene S Cardillo avatar

    I’m kinda boring – oatmeal everyday single day for breakfast. Bagel and yogurt for lunch.

    We have snow and normally I’d be stressing but nope, home enjoying a book and my knitting.

    Soon I hope to start walking and eventually run again…

    1. Susanne avatar

      There’s nothing boring with that as long as it works for you and keeps you doing what you want to do! I was thinking of adding oatmeal as carbs but it would just add so much work to my mornings routine.
      Keep enjoying not having to go out in the snow!

  7. Coco avatar

    Sideways rain would keep me inside except for having to take Scooby out!

    I don’t have much patience at a busy gym either — it’s why I often choose to workout at home. I do like having more weights to choose from though. There are days when my 15s are too heavy and I’m sure I could use 12s if I had them.

    I had a bit of a rough year in 2023, but not in comparison to what friends have dealt with, so that puts it in perspective too.

    Here’s to a better 2024 all around.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, that’s a disadvantage with training at home. I have a dumbbell kit where I can build my own dumbbell with weight plates but then having to rebuild them for every second exercise isn’t appealing either. Now I bought a pair of 5 kg dumbbells and alongside the other kit they should keep me going when I need to train at home.
      I hope your 2024 will treat you well.

  8. Michelle avatar

    2023 was a mixed bag for me – it’s good to step back and focus on the good aspects. I hope 2024 is good to you 🙂

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, good to focus on what was good and, if needed, learn from what wasn’t. Things are going well here so far.

  9. Cari avatar

    So glad you feel strong and optimistic. I feel you on the Bulgarian Split Squats. Surprisingly complex, but they feel so good.
    Weights range is one thing I love about my gym membership as I live in a small apartment and can’t otherwise support my weights work.

    1. Susanne avatar

      I have a love-hate relationship with Bulgarian split squats! So challenging but that’s what I also love about them. I’m glad you have a good gym where you live, here good gyms at good prices are quite scarce! I’m so thankful I can pay for personal training, not only because of the benefits with a personal trainer but that’s also the only good gym in the town centre.

  10. Melissa avatar

    Wow – great job staying active even with your gym closing for the holidays. I love the fan your husband hooked up- what a cool thing to do! Way to start off the year strong – I need to be better about lifting weights, etc.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, I couldn’t handle the thought of going 9 days without any training at all! I have very little equipment at home and although bodyweight exercises can still be good enough, when I had the opportunity to go to a gym it was a no-brainer.
      Lifting weights is a very good thing to do for runners (and anyone, really)! But I’m sure you know that already.
      That fan is quite cool! I never use it but I like the idea.

  11. trent avatar

    Looks like you have done well with your routine, despite the issues with gyms. I have a good set of dumbbells, bench, chin up bar and mats, so don’t do the gym. Of course, my routine is not too extensive, so works great for me. Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend 🙂
    Are you still running your other blogs? I need to track them down, or at least the photography one.

    1. Susanne avatar

      That’s a very good question about the blogs! I’m actually planning to start the music blog again but (possibly) under another name. The photo blog… not sure. I realised that photography as a blog, it doesn’t spark any real conversation (in most cases) which makes it kind of boring. I’m going to keep that domain name (Mirrorless is more) because I love it and I still love photography but I’m going to make some gallery kind of thing eventually there instead, and share most photos here. Generally I haven’t been blogging much during the past year but would like to get back to writing more again.

      Sounds like you have a good gym setup at home! We have such small rooms, but if I had more space, I’d get more equipment too. We have a dumbbell kit where you can add weight plates (like a mini barbell more or less) and we bought a short bar recently, and a set of 5 kg dumbbells on discount, so this will keep me going the next time the gym is closed.

  12. Jenny avatar

    I know you had the foot issue in 2023, but you also did a lot of great strength training. I agree- not breaking any bones is a great goal for 2024. I would definitely be interested in a post about nutrition! I’m also working on that.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, I’ve realised now that 2023 was the year that my strength training really took off. Perhaps actually because of the injury because I don’t know if I would have ramped up to three sessions a week if i hadn’t had the foot injury. Now I’m seeing some great results because of that.

  13. Sue from Women Living Well After 50 avatar

    A great start to your year, Susanne. I’ve been trying to workout in some way every day for at least 30 minutes and have achieved that goal so far in 2024. I do a combination of strength, cardio (run and HIIT), yoga/pilates and stretching as well as some mobility and of course my weekly long run with friends. In this short time I can feel I’m getting back to where I want to be physically and mentally. Doesn’t a good workout, whatever it may be, make you feel great? x

    1. Susanne avatar

      That is a good habit to have! I normally do something every day, although on busy work days it may only be step-ups and balance, but those are very important too. I totally agree with you about a good workout how it makes you feel, I’ve had a very frustrating work week and suffered badly from self-doubt (it’s just that time of the month!) and then I went to the gym and did a squat PR (see tomorrow’s post!) and left the gym feeling great and refreshed. My strength training is essential for so many reasons and not only for the body, it keeps my mood in a good place too.

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