Monthly Archive: January 2013

4:45 am?!


“4:45 am?!”

You have no idea how often I get this message from people. “What do you mean you set your alarm for 4:45am to go to the gym?”

“Well, I have class from 8-4, depending, and only an hour for lunch, and after class I have meetings or I need to study and by the time I sit down it’s late at night and if I exercise I’ll be wide awake all day.”

I don’t write this to parrot the “DON’T HAVE TIME? MAKE TIME!” sentament because I think it’s lacking reality. I make this post to give some tips that I use to make sure that my ass is up and out the door at a decent time to get what I need done. So here are my tips.

1. Make a really annoying alarm, and put it really far away

My alarm is the car honking and it’s super annoying. What’s worse than that is my dogs know that alarm = Mom’s awake = FOOD. So before I’ve even processed that my alarm is going off I have a 20 pound beagle and a 35 pound dingo on my face pouncing at me and whining. There’s no way to sleep through that.

For those of you who don’t have pets, put your alarm far away. Close enough to hear, far enough to where you have to get up and turn it off. You’re already up, might as well go.

2. Minimize downtime

I sleep in my gym clothes, pack my gym bag, fill up my water bottle, mix my BCAAs and pre work out, all the day before. When I wake up literally the only thing I need to do is pee, feed my dogs, grab my bag and leave. After awhile this process becomes second nature and I don’t realize that I am a) awake or b) about to go to the gym until I’m IN the car and on my way to the gym. It’s autopilot, it takes something serious for me to disrupt that.

3. Caffeine and other drugs

On week days when I’m up at 4:45am it’s tough. I’m a classic “morning person” but I do need time to wake up, it’s not instant. I can usually help this out with caffeine. Some people take caffeine pills, sip a diet coke…I take a pre-workout. I used to take Jack3d before they changed the formula, and I’m not a fan of the new one. C4 makes me tingle and I, idiotically, ordered a giant tub of No X-Plode before realizing I bought a nasty flavor and I need like 2 scoops of it.

But caffeine isn’t the only way to wake up. Sun salutations, running to the gym, stretching, etc. are all great ways to wake your body up and make it ready to roll.

4. Time management

If you have class during the week, maybe spend weekends working out. The same is for work, on days you’re “free” you can schedule your workouts then. I tend to prioritize my workouts on weekends, then split the other 2 days I exercise based on my test schedule. I never workout the morning of a test (So I can sleep in or get last minute studying in). Don’t wake up at 3am every week day when you can sleep in until 9am on Saturday and go to the gym any time that day. Make the gym schedule one you can stick to.

Make sure you give yourself the RIGHT amount of time for a morning workout. For me, an hour is perfect. It takes me 10 minutes to get to my gym if I hit every red light, an hour to work out and stretch, 10 minute drive back home, 30 minutes to get ready for class, then I need to leave by 7:30 am if I want to make it in time (7:20am if the freshmen have 8am classes). I’ve done this enough to make sure I give myself enough time to work out, but not so much that I’m sitting around WAITING to leave. I could have been sleeping. Which brings me to my last and most important point…

5. Get some sleep

This is the most important one! I’ve seen people wake up early, go to the gym, feel great, crash around noon, take a nap after class, then can’t fall asleep until 11pm, repeat. If you’re not getting enough sleep the night before you’re going to set yourself up for disaster. The next day you’ll spend all day saying things like, “This am gym thing sucks, I’m exhausted now – NOT WORTH IT.”

I am in bed by 9:30pm pretty much every night, with few exceptions. I know, this makes me seem lame, but while my classmates are heading off to the gym after class and lamenting over having time to balance everything, I’ve already gone to the gym and can spend the afternoon studying.

Early mornings are NOT for everyone.

Make sure you’re not sacrificing sleep, study time, etc. just so you can wake up early for a workout. Some people cannot do early morning workouts – that’s fine! You’ll just have to find something else that works for you, like late nights, lunch time runs, etc. Accept this fact and plan your life around that, not the other way around.

Gym Etiquette 101

After a particularly infuriating run in at the gym I realized that gym etiquette may be lost on some people. Maybe some people didn’t know that they were breaking rules? Maybe they were new and had no idea what they were doing? Maybe they’re just assholes who don’t care? Whatever the cause is, I polled some fellow fitness people to find their biggest gym pet peeves and compiled a list to help new people avoid these mistakes, or maybe to reinforce some common decency.

What I found was that most gym pet peeves could fit into a few categories. Let me break them down for you.

1. Be Mindful of Time Constraints

  • If the gym is busy, please respect the “20/30 Minute Rule” a lot of gyms place on their cardio equipment.
  • Likewise, if the gym is busy, please do not use any piece of equipment for an extended period of time. For example, if you’re sitting on a bench to rest between sets – don’t. Someone could be using that bench. If you’re in the only squat rack, please only use it for squatting, or other exercises that genuinely NEED the rack. “Resting” for 5 minutes while texting interferes with someones workout.
  • If you’re working out with a friend please do not spend 5 seconds on a machine, then lean on the machine to chat the rest of the time.
  • Do not hoover around a machine and not use it. It follows the points above – if you’re leaning on something and chatting with a friend, take your conversation elsewhere.
  • Arrive to classes on time!

Basically, pretend that you’re on a time crunch whenever you work out. That’s not to say you need to rush your sets and have poor form, but just pretend you only have an hour to do your full work out that day. Respect that other people have a limited time to workout, and if you’re doing the things above you may be hindering their workout.

2. Clean Up After Yourself

This is also rudimentary, but it apparently needs to be said!

  • After using a machine, wipe it down! If you’re afraid of creating MRSA bring your own towel and wipe it down.
  • When you are done with a barbell, put all the weights back. Do not leave your barbell with weights on it somewhere.
  • Replace barbells where they belong
  • When putting away plates, make sure they follow the weight order on the machines. 45’s usually go on the bottom levels while lighter weights are higher up. Make sure they’re in appropriate order.
  • Same with dumbbells – place them back in order of weight! A lot of gyms label where they belong, and counting is a basic skill.
  • If you are unsure where someone goes, ask someone else, preferably a trainer.

3. Respect Personal Space

  • During an exercise class it is common courtesy to give the people around you plenty of space to do the necessary maneuvers. If the class is full you may need to squeeze together, but that’s only later.
  • When someone is doing an exercise give them wide berth. Things such as squats, cleans, flyes, etc. can take up space outside of the bench/rack and it’s dangerous if you get clipped.
  • No one likes to be crowded. If you cannot extend your arms fully and twirl around and not touch someone, you’re too close.
  • Do not talk to people in the middle of a set. When the person is clearly resting with no weights in their hands/on their back/they’re not moving/etc. then it is okay to approach them. Usually a wave will get their attention.
  • Do not give advice. Unless you are a personal trainer do not give anyone advice (and even then, still don’t). You do not know that person’s goals, what they’re training for, etc. You are not qualified to help anyone.
  • Do. Not. Stare. Gym people are not blind, they can see it.
  • Do not stare. It bears repeating. This includes those creepers who stand outside of fitnesses classes and watch. No.
  • Headphones are generally a clear sign someone does not want to talk to you. Save conversations for after their workout, or just not at all.
  • Trainers – do not try to sell people your services during their workout.

4. Territory

  • If you are using something, be clear about it. If you leave to use the restroom/get a drink of water/etc. put something on that machine.
  • If you see a towel on a piece of equipment, wait to see if anyone claims it. Ask people around the machine (not while they’re lifting!) if they’re using it.
  • If someone walks away from a machine and you’re not sure if they’re done, a little wave and pointing at the piece of equipment is generally all you need to do.
  • Follow all signs posted in the gym. This includes the correct way to run around the track, not walking in the running lane, etc.
  • Do not use more than 2 machines/weights at once unless the gym isn’t very crowded. If you have the only 10 and 15 pound weights in the gym and you’re using them for 2 out of the 7 exercises on your circuit you’re going to piss people off.
  • Allow people to work in.
  • Do not do exercises in “inappropriate” spots. For example, bicep curls are NOT for the squat rack. You do not NEED to use the rack for it, you’re taking up a piece of equipment. Crunches should not be done in the middle of the weight area. The only bench in the gym should not be used for crunches.

5. Be Friendly and Courteous 

  • If you’re ever unsure, put yourself in someone else’s shoes. “If I saw someone doing what I was doing now, would I be upset?”
  • Men: Respect that most women do not want to talk to you at the gym. They’re not wearing what they’re wearing for attention. Do not stare.
  • If someone is clearly not interested in having a conversation with you, politely leave them alone.
  • Do not glare or stare at people who grunt or yell. If it’s really interrupting your workout, just let them know.

Who Am I?

Some of you have been following this blog for a few months, some for a few days, and some of you for the entire year it’s been up. In all this time I never formally introduced myself, and for good reason. I wanted this blog to be entirely about the science of weight loss and fitness – not a personal blog. I wanted to share information in an easy manner without the clutter of day to day stuff no one really cares about. I carried on this way until a few weeks ago, when I read a blog similar to mine. “This is great…but why should I trust this person? Who ARE they?”


So, let me introduce myself and start off the new year with a resolution for my blog: to let you get to know me. This blog will be still about 90% science and articles but you’ll get little updates from me here and there about my training, my passions, or maybe just a random personal post.


My name is Courtney and I’m a 20-something year old veterinary student. My interests include powerlifting, yoga, blogging, animals, eating and hiking. I started this blog on a more personal platform – Tumblr – because of some issues I had with food. I spent a lot of my young life troubled with food and unable to make peace with my body image issues. Instead of eliminating the problem (the toxic environment I created to continue my bad habits) I faulted myself instead. Tumblr gave me a place to explore this and, eventually, leave these thoughts behind. During this time I also started to research into topics that interested me: was my metabolism forever destroyed by years of yo-yo dieting and fasting? What SHOULD I be eating? How much?

To my surprise I found story after story telling two different sides of every story. I was more confused than ever, which lead me to pull up scientific articles and papers about these issues instead of popular magazines and websites. Here I found the “truth” of fitness, exercise and weight loss – and man did they differ from what I’d been told my whole life! In an attempt to help others receive a more balanced outlook I started to write articles that people my age would identify with. I found great solace in the fact that I didn’t need to eat 7 times a day, or that I didn’t have to spend one more second on the treadmill. I figured that there were people out there just like me who would benefit from this information.

So, Barbells and Beakers was born.

Me after the Spartan Sprint in Gulfport, MS

Me after the Spartan Sprint in Gulfport, MS

As you can see, nowhere above does it say “I am a nutritionist, personal trainer, etc.” I am a veterinary student. I only offer my unique knowledge of anatomy and physiology and my ability to understand science. I give only my personal experiences and opinions in hopes to help others. I will never create a diet, exercise plan, or recommend any one type of eating to anyone. If anything, you’ll hear my most popular saying: “Do what works for you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Dear New Years Resolutionists,

Hello! Welcome to the weight loss community, or the fitness community, or Fitocracy, Tumblr, Weight Watchers, Curves, the gym or wherever you’ve decided to land yourself for the new year. You have goals, you haves hopes and wishes and dreams and things you’d like to accomplish. You’re ready for a great year, or month or week or day.

First of all, congrats. The first step is the hardest. The first aimless workout in the gym can be the worst. What am I doing? Why did I sign up for bootcamp? Did I really just wake up at 5am to go to the GYM? You’ve done it! You’ve started the long, hard road to an active life. It can be really tough at first but you’ll soon find that the fitness community is a big, wide sea of people that can be your support system.

But not all of us are like that.

You may have encountered resistance. Sneers. “Oh, look, another Resolutionist, gone in a month, taking up my weights or my favorite treadmill.” Hey, it’s tough. We have a routine and we’ve been doing this for a few more days or months or years than you. We can get stuck in our ways and our head slowly begins to ascend up our ass. My advice? Ignore those people. They’re not the type of people you want in your support system, right? Who needs a negative Nancy?

But don’t freak out – there are others. Those of us who smile instead of frown when we see a new face, or who high five after your first mile run or first full depth squat. We’re there. Look for us.

There are some ways to make this transition easier. Maybe you hired a personal trainer you meet with – awesome! Maybe you’re starting with just the group fitness classes – great! Maybe you decided to just walk into the gym and do anything…that can be tough. Don’t worry, there are SO many resources out there. We can help you. We WANT to help you.

So, New Years Resolutionists, we wish you the best of luck. We WANT you to succeed. We WANT you to quit smoking or drop a dress size or run your first marathon or deadlift your body weight. We WANT you to join our community and become another likeminded healthy person. Because, as a community, we are loving and supportive.

Good luck!