Tag Archives: Self

Using Math to Win at Workouts!

This is your brain on math.

I am definitely not a math-minded person, generally speaking. Math was a subject I struggled in during school, as opposed to English, where I could just fly by without blinking an eye. I prefer words over numbers any day of the week, but the more I work out, the more I realize that my brain is secretly plotting against me to become more math oriented out of desperation and necessity. It plays games with me.


Because when I work out, math is constantly a focus! I make little deals with myself throughout each workout. “C’mon, just 5 more reps!” or “No worries, only 3 minutes 23 seconds left, push yourself!”

So I decided that this week of Boot Camp, with Miss Tina Reale


I would harness the power of math to push me further in each rep and each minute of my workouts. It’s amazing what I can do by overcoming my mental obstacles with the distraction of a little math! Games are fun right? In all honestly, the only time I enjoyed math was when I made games out of the problems. So why not apply that to working out? Makes sense to me, so I might as well do it…

I have decided to share my evil new devices of mathematical brain trickery below. (And for my own future reference).

So here goes!

Increasing the Burn…

1)      A Game of Pounds:

When selecting a weight for each weight training exercise, I select the weight I think I can do based on past experience, and then I select a weight that is the next dumbbell, kettlebell, weighted ball, or barbell disc up from that. I start with this higher weight until I am near fatigue, (or as long as I can go with proper form), and then switch to the lighter weight when I have to. For example, if I am performing a dumbbell curl, and I know I have 10 reps, I figure I can normally use about a 12.5lb weight. So I grab a 12.5lb weight, and then also a 15 lb weight. I use the 15lb weight until approximately rep #7, then I see that my form is slipping a bit, so I switch to the 12.5lb weight to finish off the reps. Bonus: If I feel like I can add an additional 3-5 reps at the lower weight, I do! (Math skills used: Addition + subtraction=workout win #1!)

Increasing the Endurance.

2)      A Game of Reps:

With the boot camp workouts, there is either a set number of reps, or an allotted time to complete as many reps as possible. There are definitely games to be played here!

Game #1: (set number of reps)

As I go through the reps, I tend to divide the reps into fractions as I go. This is based on the knowledge that a certain number of reps equals 1 whole set. I use this to trick my brain into both getting through the set, but also adding more reps if I can. For example, if I have 10 reps, I know that at 3 reps I am 3/10 done, and 5 reps I am ½ done. But my brain wants simpler fractions, because it doesn’t like weird ones that you have to figure out least common denominators…too much work! But if I up the reps to 12, I have use beautifully simple ¼, 1/3, etc. Much happier! And 2 reps added!  Beautimous. I love my lazy brain sometimes…so easily manipulated into simpler fractions! (Math skills used: fractions + addition = win #2!)

Game #2: (reps in a set amount of time)

For this one, I usually try for as many reps as I can do with good form for the first set. Then for the second and third sets (and so on) I try to beat that number of reps from the first set. For instance, if I complete 20 pushups in 30 seconds, I then try to do 22, then 24, and so on. (Math skills used: Addition = win #3!)

Tuning In…

3)      A Game of Tunes:

For this game, I use my trusty Itunes and knowledge of time signatures to aid in my training. Music can be a very powerful tool of gameplay when completing workouts. It works for both cardio and weight training. Not only does it provide a beat to move to and entertainment to keep you going, it also provides a mathematical web of power to utilize.

You see, the majority of rock and pop tunes are in 4/4 time, meaning there are 4 beats to a measure, and a quarter note gets 1 beat. As a result, stanzas are usually 8 beats (think back to any dance related class you’ve ever taken…the music’s counted as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8). So now say you’re pumping iron to the beat, counting in your head, but the music is mid-stanza when you finish your reps…doesn’t it make sense to just go ahead and finish out those last 4 reps to complete the stanza? Of course it does!

Now say you’re on the treadmill and your timer is almost up…but you’re only mid-song! Doesn’t it make sense to just go ahead and finish out the song as strongly and with as much gusto as possible? Of course it does! (Math skills used: Time signatures + additional beats= Win #3!)

Fair and Square…

4)      A Game of Evens over Odds:

In this game, time is on my side. Or at least, my OCD sense of odd and even numbers is on my side. In general, I like even numbers over odd numbers. I like things to be fair and equal and even, yada yada…but I use this to my advantage when working out. If the number of reps is 15 on each side, I instead try to do 16. If I log 3 miles on the elliptical, I complete 1 more to make it an even 4. If the number of sets is 3, I try to do four. If the interval splits on the treadmill turn out to be 5 sets of full pace and recovery, I do 6 instead. Believe me, the increments add up! (Math skills used: Increments + Even Numbers + additional reps/minutes=Win #4!)

Mixing it up…

5)      A Game of Circuit Multiples:

In this game, I utilize equal sets of multiples to complete multiple exercises for a given number of sets. I have to do each move or use each machine for an equal number of minutes…why?   Because fair game play is good game play. Everybody knows that! ;) For example, I like to sometimes break up my cardio into different machines. Say I’m using the elliptical, the Stairmaster, and the rowing machine. I commit to an equal number of minutes at each machine so I can’t slack off on the last machine due to fatigue. If I have 45 minutes for cardio, I’ll do 15 minutes of each machine. Fair and square. For circuit training, I’ll do an equal number of reps and/or an equal number of reps for each move. Example: 20 mountain climbers, 20 burpees, 20 high knees, 20 jumping jacks. Or, 40 seconds of each if going for time. (Math Skills used: The Math Property of Equality + addition=Win #5!)

So there you have it…my brain is reeling from all this math now, so i’d better go back to reading more blogs…






What does balance mean to me? Part 1


Balance has always been a big thing with me, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise. I guess I have to admit I am more than slightly OCD. When I was little, I would rearrange people’s couch pillows so there was the same number of pillows on each side. Teacups on shelves had to be evenly distributed. M&M’s were often dumped out on the table, sorted by color, and then eaten evenly by color. Playing with one friend who was a twin for a certain amount of time meant spending an equal amount of time with the other twin.
Looking back, I think I liked ballet an awful lot not just because I loved to dance, but because I had this need within me to always strive for perfection. An overwhelming desire for what was clean, neat, orderly, and, well, perfect. Of course I never WAS perfect. I had the wrong body for ballet, not enough turnout, short Achilles tendons, etc. That’s how ballet is though. Always striving for perfection, and never quite measuring up no matter what. Ballet dancers don’t get to be human. They have to defy things that humans take for granted such as food, gravity, body weight, etc. This suited me just fine, because even though I couldn’t be perfect, if I only just constantly devoted my life to striving for perfection, trying to always appear to be perfect and have it all together, nobody could say I didn’t try. Maybe eventually I would be perfect if I just kept going.

Some people blame their parents for this kind of pressure. But I put this pressure on myself. I was selfish in that I didn’t want to share my faults with others. I was independent. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me what to do. I was a good kid and got good grades not because I was pressured by anyone on the outside, I was pressured by my own need to be perfect. To never slip up. To always appear to have it all together. Ballet was just another way to demonstrate the pressure I could put on myself and still appear to be as perfect as possible.
You should have seen me try to do math as a kid and in high school. Many tears were shed because I couldn’t just pick it up, understand it, and do it. Math showed my weakness and my vulnerability. I needed help to understand it. I hated that. I wanted it to be like English where I could just automatically understand it and do it and be awesome at it. Looking back, I remember various points in the history of math classes where I would panic when I realized I couldn’t understand something, cry over it, gain sympathy for my tears, and then work with someone on the problem. I felt such a sense of accomplishment when math problems and formulas finally clicked. But also in looking back, I see that my greatest rewards and feelings of self worth came from acknowledging it when I needed help, showed that I was vulnerable, and worked with someone on the problem instead of trying to figure it out for myself.

Being homeschooled has many advantages, but one of the drawbacks is that while there are certainly other homeschool kids and activities to keep you involved with a group, the day to day grindstone of getting through textbooks and learning new subjects ultimately fosters a sense of independence. Independence and individual responsibility are very good things to have, and can be extremely advantageous. But the downside is that it makes it harder to ask for help when you need it, because there is nobody else asking for help around you. The absence of peer pressure in other words, made me pressure myself. I felt like I was missing out on something, and I was. I was missing out on being human and making mistakes.

Making a mistake was a tragedy in the world of me. Being measured and found lacking was a bigger fear for me than spiders and snakes. I had an incredible fear of skin problems, because they showed the imperfections I felt on the inside as plain as day on the outside. The very thought of getting chicken pox made me shiver. Poison oak leaves would send me into fits of tears. The fear of acne had me trying every new mask and potion I could get my hands on. If I could perfect my skin, nobody would be able to see my vulnerability. Appearing perfect was of utmost importance. I only shared with friends enough to make them think I was a perfect friend. (Whatever that means). If I had an issue or a fear or a worry, I only shared it if I felt like my friends shared that worry with me. I would only let myself be as vulnerable as they were. I couldn’t give away too much for fear of being judged.

Balancing on point shoes, balancing my math problems, balancing friends, and balancing my skin all had one thing in common…I was trying to show everyone how good I was at balancing things on my own, without anyone’s help. I didn’t need anyone to catch me, because I was never going to fall. And if I did fall, nobody was going to see me do it.

Stay tuned for part 2…