An Unexpected Journey

"Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness — an open and noble temper." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Physical Therapy: A (Long) Description

pulleyI’ve mentioned physical therapy in previous posts, but I realized while going through my session today that I never actually described just what I was doing in physical therapy.  To recap, after some unspecified injury, I developed Adhesive capsulitis (aka “Frozen Shoulder”).  It’s a condition where your range of motion becomes limited and there is pain when you attempt certain movements.  Certain daily activities as mundane as reaching for something on a shelf or putting on your shirt can suddenly become difficult or even painful.

At first, my routine only consisted of a couple exercises and then my physical therapist would stretch out my arm and shoulder beyond what I could do on my own.  However, over time I’ve been given more and more exercises.  My routine now takes me about forty minutes and that’s before I see the physical therapist!  Here’s that part of the routine:

Hand Bike
This piece of cardio equipment has two grips that you hold and rotate around, just like the pedals on a bicycle.  I use this for five minutes to “warm up” the joint.

Arm Pendulums
Bent over, using one arm to support yourself on a bench, you rotate your arm clockwise and counter-clockwise.  What’s important is to keep your shoulder blade back, you don’t just let the entire section of your back/shoulder/arm hang down.  You move your whole body to move the arm in the circular motion, twenty five times in each direction.  This is done five times in between the other exercises.

Finger Walks
This can be done with or without equipment.  At my PT center we have the equipment for this.  Imagine using your pointer and middle fingers to “walk” up slowly on a wall until you’re stretching the joint.  At the PT center they have a wooden piece on the wall with little “steps” to go up the wall.  At home or in the gym, I just use any old wall.  You go up, hold for five to ten seconds then “walk” your fingers back down for a total of ten times.

Cable Pull (Arms)
With the arm at a right angle (upper arm straight, forearm out to the side) you pull the cable (or exercise band) in across your body and then out, fifteen times for each.  Two sets total.

Back Row
This too can be done with a cable or exercise band.  This is your standard back row, with an emphasis on getting the shoulder blades together.  There is only one set of these, but thirty reps total.

Dumbbel Lateral Lift
I’m currently on 8lbs, but started with 5lbs.  This sounds mundane, but it’s a challenge for an injured shoulder.  Each rep involves lifting the arms, holding it for five seconds and then coming back down.  This is done ten times for two sets.  There is a secondary lift where you invert your forearms and lift the weights wide in a “V” shape in front of you slightly (not all the way up).  That too is done ten times for two sets.

Pull Up Assist Machine Hang
Generally when you go to a pull up machine with weight assist, the idea is to well, do pull ups.  In my case however I put the weight at the bottom so it will support my full weight.  I then hold on to the two grips that are parallel to each other and lower myself slowly.  Then I push my chest forward, the idea is forcing my shoulder/arm to stretch using gravity to pull the joint.

Using a pulley with two grips, I pull down using my right arm which pulls the left arm up.  This stretch is done for ten seconds for a total of ten reps.  It is often one of the more painful parts of my exercises along with the pull up assist hang.  You’ll see a picture in this article of the one I wound up buying to use at home.

Bar Exercises
Imagine a metal bar about three feet long with a handle set at a right angle on one side and a grip on the other end.  Using this with a weight tied on, I swing it over head slowly to give my arm another stretch.  This is also used to stretch my arm out laterally and at a right angle, all with the purpose of getting my range of motion back.  This too is quite painful.

Behind Back Stretches
This is exactly what it sounds like.  Imagine you’re using your thumb to scratch your back so you reach back and your arm is at a rough right angle.  That’s what I have to do, except the frozen shoulder keeps it form happening naturally so I use my other arm to force it up.  This is painful but worthwhile.  When I started I could barely get to my belt line.  Now I’m getting towards the top of my lower back.

After all that, my physical therapist then performs stretches on me, taking the arm farther than I can get it on my own.  This usually means laterally, overhead and at an angle.  She really knows how to lean into it and make the joint hurt!  There have been times I’ve coughed in pain or my body temperature shot up and I started sweating because it hurt so much, but it’s absolutely necessary.

This routine repeats itself twice a week, though I want to aim for three soon.  it has been frustrating, but at the sam etime I know it’s working.  My range of motion is better and I’ve had much less pain in the shoulder during sleep and work than I had say three weeks ago.  Let’s just say I really look forward to the ice pack afterwards!


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“Operation Look, Perform & Feel Better” October 8, 2012

My normal Boot Camp class was cancelled because of the Columbus Day holiday so I decided to put together my own routine to torture myself, here it goes with explanations (where necessary).  Each exercise was done for two minutes before switching to the next one.

Riser “Sled” (45lbs)
Laying a towel flat on the floor, flip over a wide step and put it on top of the towel.  Put weight in the step (in this case I put in a 45lb plate) and then push across the floor.  I would go from one end of the studio, jump over the riser and go back and repeat.

Dumbbell Punches
With 8lb weights in each hand, punch left, then right, cross, then uppercut.

Front kick to Reverse Lunge

Side Lunges (15lbs)
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lunge to one side, keeping your feet in the same alignment.  Keep your back straight and hang your arms down with the dumbbells on either side of your foot.  I went in each direction for one minute.

Toe Taps
With a wide step set one riser high, toe tap around the edge of the step.  At the one minute mark, switch directions.

Plank / Shoulder Tap / Push up (2x)
Get in a push up position, tap your left shoulder with your right hand, then your right shoulder with your left hand.  Then perform two push ups and repeat.

Inchworm to Push Up to Jump

Using a mat on the floor and 8lb weights in each hand, hold the weights over your shoulders wide. Kneel down one at a time onto the mat, then push the weights up and press them down. With the weights still over your shoulders, stand back up and repeat.

High Knees & Jump on Wide Step
I set up two wide steps five levels high each in a row.  With your legs on either side of the step (set in the narrow direction) perform high knees going forward.  Jump up, then back down and perform high knees backwards.  Jump up, back down and repeat.

One Legged Dumbbell Raises (5lb)
Begin with a dumbbell in each hand, then raise one leg up and allow your arms to hang down.  Keep your back flat.  Raise the weights up to the sides, then swing them forward over your head.  Switch legs at the one minute mark.

Ab Sequence (Perform one minute of each, then repeat for a total of three rounds)
Glute Bridge
Leg Raises

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“Operation Look, Perform & Feel Better” October 7, 2012

Weekend workouts are quite freeing in many ways. One of my favorite things to do is take over a studio in a gym, get my music pumping on the speaker system and set up a combination of risers, weights, medicine balls and more. Below I describe today’s cardio set up exercise by exercise. Each one was done for two minutes each before moving to the next. I did two run throughs altogether (which brought the session to about 40 minutes).


Heisman on Risers to Squat Jumps
Four risers were set up, three levels high each in a row. Heismans were performed across each followed by a pivot, then a series of three squat jumps.

Jump Squat to Punches
Holding an 8lb weight in each hand, perform a jump squat. While squatting, perform a punch with each arm. Jump back up to a standing position and repeat.

“Tire Flips” with an Exercise Band
Using an exercise band, Stand on the center. Hold each handle to the sides, squat down, stand and lift up both your arms underhand in front of you (simulating the “tire flip” motion).

Vault over Riser
Set up a riser seven levels high. With both hands on the edges of the risers (hands stay on), vault both legs over (keep your legs together) side to side.

Using a towel on the floor, put one foot on the towel and the other on the floor. Bend the leg down on the floor, then push your leg with the towel back at about a 45 degree angle and continue pulling that leg in and pushing it out as fast as possible. At the one minute mark, switch legs.

Body Bar Jump with Military Press
Two risers are set up with three levels high each. In between is a body bar (I used a 15lb one). Jump over the body bar once, turn around then jump over it again. Grab the bar, thrust your legs back, then back up, press the body bar up, put it back down and repeat.

Crunches (One Minute)

Leg Raises (One Minute)

Push Up to Elbow Strikes
Perform a push up, then throw one elbow back (holding yourself up with one hand) and then the other, repeat.

Tricep Extensions with Exercise Band

Dumbbell Punches
With 5lb weights in each hand, punch left, then right, cross, then uppercut.

Using a mat on the floor and 8lb weights in each hand, hold the weights over your shoulders wide. Kneel down one at a time onto the mat, then push the weights up and press them down. With the weights still over your shoulders, stand back up and repeat.

One Legged Medicine Ball Drills
Holding a Medicine Ball (12lb in this case) over your head, stand on one leg. Hop around 180 degrees, slam the ball down, catch it and then hold it overhead before turning around again. Switch legs at the one minute mark.

Leg Press: 320lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Squat (Machine): 320lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Leg Extensions: 110lb x 12 (3 Sets)
Leg Curls: 110lb x 12 (3 Sets)

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“Operation Look, Perform & Feel Better” October 4, 2012

Wednesday is usually my mid-week break, but Thursdays it’s right back on the wagon!  Today’s workouts were broken up into my lunch time exercises and then after work exercises.

Lunch Time Workout

For the past eight months or so I had been taking “Pre Season Sports Conditioning” at NYSC Grand Central every Thursday.  This class consisted of lots of cardio, fast movements, running, squats etc.  However, the instructor who was teaching the class left and the gym rebranded the class as “UXF”, a new program they’re pushing that promises to burn 350-600 calories per session.  This routine is meant to be a combination of cardio and strength in intervals to keep your heart rate going.

Sadly, I’ve tried this class at two different locations with two different instructors and it just doesn’t serve the purpose I need.  I noticed in both classes there was very little focus on cardio.  Instead there were a lot of compound weight and body strength exercises, which is great, but they composed a majority of the class whereas the previous “Pre Season” class was the inverse, with an emphasis on cardio with strength training only complementing it.  It looks like I’ll be on a quest for a new class  to replace this one.


  • Deadlifts: 90lb x 12 (3 Sets)
  • Lat Pulldowns: 90lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 45lb x 12 (2 Sets)


After Work Exercise

The routine below was put together as something I may do with friends so I thought I’d give it a shot and get a feel for it.  It definitely worked up a sweat and got my heart rate going in a way my lunch time class did not!  Each exercise was done for two minutes in a circuit with little to no gap in between exercises.  The weights indicated are the weight of the dumbbells held in each hand.

Warm Up (One Minute Each)

  • Windmills
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Toe Taps
  • Lateral hops
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Stretches`


“Martial Arts” themed workout

  • Forward Kick to Back Lunge
  • Standing crunches (alternate sides, opposite elbow to knee)
  • Triple Kick (front, side, back)
  • Squat/Double Punch (8lbs)
  • Switch Kicks/Butt Kicks (30 Seconds each, then switch)
  • Inch Worm to Push up
  • Dumbbell Punches (5 lbs)
  • Four Punch Combination (5 lbs)
  • Plank to back elbow strike
  • High Punch/Low Punch combination


Weights & Body Strength
During my “UXF” class and the cardio routine above, I used my biceps quite a bit, so by the time I got to the end of this bicep portion of my routine I was fatiguing sooner than expected!

  • Close Grip Pull Ups: 100lb assist x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Preacher Curls: 60lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Dumbbell Curls: 30lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Dumbbell Curls: 30lb x 8 (2 Sets)
  • Barbell Curls: 55lb x 8 (2 Sets)
  • Ab Crunch Machine (Nautilus): 80lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Crunches: 3 sets of 20
  • Leg Raises: 3 sets of 20

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External Resource: Ace Fitness

Resource Name: Ace Fitness
Resource URL:

One of my favorite activities is sitting down and coming up with exercise routines.  This past summer, I began to work out twice a week after work in Central Park.  There, I would put together routines similar to “Boot Camp” style classes I had taken.  The way I saw it, we were having “play time” for adults.  When you’re a kid, running, jumping, competing with friends was natural as breathing.  For some reason when we become adults it all goes away in the face of “proper” behavior.  These workouts managed to provide a nice structure to such activities.

However, a lot of the time workouts don’t just pop up in front of me like some magical communication from the Workout Gods.  There are many times where I think “I need a lower body exercise to plug in here…” so I decide to consult one of many sites that I rely on.  One of the most professional and cleanly designed sites I use is “Ace Fitness”, which I learned about through my company’s internal health program.

Check out Ace Fitness’ exercise library.  They break everything down by body part and you can sort accordingly.  Exercises are listed by difficulty and have photos showing you how to do them step by step.  They even offer a “Simple” step by step (which is language most of us use) and “Technical” for those who are hardcore into naming every muscle and movement by its scientific name.  I have found this guide invaluable in helping me workout either with friends or by myself.  I highly recommend it as a tool for you to get inspired in creating your own workout regimen!

Before beginning any fitness program, always see a qualified healthcare provider for advice and to address any questions or concerns. The exercises presented are for suggestion only and should not be substituted for medical diagnosis or treatment. Participate at your own risk and stop if you feel faint or experience shortness of breath.