Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The things in your head...

OK, It's been a good long time and that's on me. Spring break I put on a few pounds but I got those off only to start gaining weight at about a pound a week. Wait! What is going on? How can a person that works out 4 days a week and eats good be gaining that fast?

The first thing I did was freak out, have a good cry and whine to my husband. Just the normal stuff. Then I made a Doctor appointment. That turned out to be one of the best things I have done. Some blood work later and I found out I had an underactive thyroid and high blood sugar. There was no way I was going to lose weight no matter how hard I worked at it.

Some prescriptions and a week later, I was feeling great. I had no idea how bad I had felt because it sneaks up on you. Now I have gotten back a ton of energy and feel like a new person. I have to be really careful what I eat because if my blood sugar goes up I feel like crap for a few days but things are getting better.

So I'm back on track and hitting the weights hard again. But I still have body image issues that make no logical sense.It's like chasing the rabbit down the hole. No matter how you look to everyone else, in your mind, you never look good enough. That next 5 pounds is going to make all the difference. But when you get there it's not enough. My mirror is the fun house one.Face it, I'm short and have a small torso. I'm never going to look like a model or have a waist. My ribs stop about 2 inches above my hip bones so where would that waist be? Either I have a few ribs removed or start facing reality. Reality seems a lot cheaper and less painful. 

I started taking an online class to deal with my issues with food and body image. It's only been a week but I can see progress. To start with, I try telling myself every day that I look darn good for an almost 46 year old women with two kids. It's more important that I eat clean for my health than my weight. I'm trying to move my focus away from that extra fat on my stomach to the fact that I can pick up over 200lbs. Be happy with the fact my husband thinks I look sexy doing an overhead press. I should be proud that my daughter tells all her friends that her mom is a power lifter at the coolest gym around.

Lots of people have these issues, even men. We have to deal with them or it becomes the monster that eats your life. Is everyone telling you that you look great but inside you don't believe them? Then you probably have the same problem. Start listening to them. They might be telling you the truth.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Follow the bouncing scale

Spring break has come and gone and with it lots of eating out in yummy restaurants with dessert. Not to mention a few adult beverages. So the result of this fun is a few extra pounds. Not that I didn't have a few extra anyway, but now I have a few more. With Summer looming on the horizon, I need to get back on the clean eating bandwagon. I basically know what I have to do but, staying on point is always a challenge. If you don't mind I'm going to use this blog to stay on track for a bit.

Here is what I need to do:
      1. Eat at least 100 grams of protein a day. 120 would be optimal
      2. Keep carbs below 100 grams a day.
      3. Get two sessions of HIIT on top of my normal 4 workout sessions.
      4. Don't stress

While number one will be difficult, it is really number four that will cause me the most issue. Like most people in today's would, I want results instantly. If I can get information from Google in seconds and watch 3 TV shows, then I am geared to have activities move fast. But weight loss is not fast. It is a slow grind where small changes slowly add up. There is where I start to fall. No one wants slow. Boo on slow.

Luckily I have a few people I can look to for support. One is my husband, who has dropped about 20 pounds this year. I also have some good friends at my gym that are excellent examples. They pack their food and watch everything they eat. And boy do they look amazing. 

So dear readers, I hope you will cheer me on, hold me accountable, and follow along. I'll be reporting what is working, what is not, and what I have to change. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Women vs Men in Training

I train with my husband. We do all the same exercises. Granted my weights are lower but basically we train the same. So when I would read about how women needed to be trained differently, I scoffed. However, recently one of my favorite fitness professionals, Bret Contreras, did a post on differences he had found in training women. When Bret writes something I read it and pay attention. He is one of my must read blogs.

The list is rather long but I highly recommend reading it. Just remember it is written for other trainers and not everything is true of every women.

Here are a few of the items that made me stop and think:

1."Women utilize a variety of lumbar-pelvic strategies when lifting and often resort to overarching (excessive hyperextension) the spine during planks, push-ups, pull-ups, and deadlifts."  I notice myself doing this on Glute Ham Raises. If I'm not careful I arch my back to get up rather than using my hamstrings.

2. "Bodyweight exercises for the upper body are much harder for women compared to men."  As a person that has struggled to do an unassisted pull-up, it was good to hear that I'm not just a weak person. It took me a year to do a Chin-up and I hope to get a pull-up under my belt this year.

3. The vast majority of women will never have “too much booty” as in gluteus maximus musculature no matter how much resistance training they perform. I was glad to read this as I don't find the Kim Kardasian look attractive. Plus, I don't want to have that much trouble finding jeans/pants.

4. It is common for women, however, to have poor ankle mobility – just as it is for men. I have noticed this and think it is directly related to wearing heels. I love my 4 inch heels but they leave you in a position that shortens the Achilles for long period of times.

5. Women often struggle to load and unload plates off of barbells properly due to pulling or positioning them off-track rather than centering them perfectly and pushing/pulling straight-on. Being short as well, this is always an issue for me and probably why I dropped that weight. I now ask for help with larger plates above my waist.

6. Some women experience urinary incontinence when exercising, and the likelihood increases after giving birth. Ladies, go to the bathroom before maximum lifts. Contrary to some people's belief it is not cool to pee while lifting!

7. Women tend to prefer different training music than men. While I understand the love of rap and death metal the guys have while working out, it would be fun to hear some dance music sometimes.

8. More women than men attempt to chat during lifts, and they’ll even do so with maximal attempts (men instinctively shut their traps and focus on the task at hand when maxing out). I'm trying really hard to stop this as it drives my husband nuts. But I really don't understand what the problem is with it.

9. If you let them, many women would perform their entire workout as one giant circuit (therefore you have to teach them to rest adequately for strength gains) This is totally me! I have to set a timer to slow down. I think it has to do with thinking I should be exhausted at the end.

10. Women require smaller jumps in progressive overload – smaller plates are therefore critical (example 1.25-2.5lbs), as are smaller barbells (and smaller jumps in db’s, kb’s, and bands). I quickly found this to be true and got a set of Fractional weights. They have been very helpful and I highly recommend them.

There are many observations that I don't necessarily agree with. I think most men tend to start out with more knowledge then women, so women appear to have a steeper learning curve. If you took a man that had never been exposed to weight training and put them in the gym, I think most of the observations would be the same. Well, maybe not the stress incontinence  

Have you noticed any way women are different?
Here is Bret's article: Strength Training for Women

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fitspirational - NOT!

With the popularity of Crossfit and fitness in the media, there have popped up many tumblr and other websites with inspirational pictures. The term “Fitspirational” has been coined to cover these.

But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. While the wording may be promoting fitness, the pictures often times are not. It’s an insidious cross message that is harmful to young women and propagating the existing stereotypes of women in the media.

Here are a few examples:

While the sentiment is implying that you should workout hard, look at the girl in the picture. She is skinny and has no muscle definition. If she was really working that hard to be fit, she would build some muscle tone.

Here is another that caught my eye:

This one is especially egregious. This is just a skinny girl with some boxing gloves and fake sweat. Her legs are tiny with no muscle and so are her arms. Again, thin is being portrayed as fit. The part “This is not what fashion models look like” almost made me laugh. This is exactly what fashion models look like if you throw some water on them to look like sweat.

By using models such as these, the idea that girls must be uber thin and have no actual muscle mass is being shown as the ideal. That is what we as fitness lovers want to get away from. I don’t want my daughter to think that just being skinny is healthy. I want her to understand that it is OK to have some muscle. That she should be proud of the hard work she is doing and it is alright to have visible signs of it.

There are real fitness models out there. Think Jamie Eason or Dana Linn Bailey or Annie Thorisdottir.These women have real figures from years of hard work. (Yes, I know Jamie had a boob job, but give her a break she had breast cancer first). These are the images we should be promoting to girls. 
Notice Jamie has definition in her arms and back. You can't really see her legs well but her quads are awesome.

Too many are indoctrinated to the ones above and are “grossed out” by actual fit women. They have been told that being strong is manly or unattractive. It’s time to stop that ridiculous line of thought. Stop promoting unhealthy body images to our daughters.

That doesn’t even cover the fact that our sons are bombarded by the images as well and brainwashed into thinking that women should be weak, thin, and inactive.

So if you see these “Fitspirational” photos, pay attention to what they are really saying and not just the words. We need to become critics of advertising to put an end to the insanity of crazy beauty ideals.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Starting Out the New Year

A New Year has started and the gyms are packed with people hoping to quickly lose weight and change their lives.  I admit I’m guilty of being irritated by the lack of parking and equipment at this time of year. Sadly, the influx of new people will only last a few weeks. Then, they will get discouraged by the lack of progress and turn back to their old habits. I recently read two great articles on why people don’t see progress. I will briefly sum them up and also provide links to the original articles. Hopefully, someone will find something they can use.

Group Fitness Classes Don't Work1

How many people do you know that faithfully show up for Zumba or Jazzercise week after week and never see progress. They are putting in the effort, not seeing results, but keep thinking just a few more classes will get them that six pack they want. These classes are missing two of the main principles needed to see progress.

Overload- Basically, you have to give the muscles in your body a reason to change. In weight lifting you can do this by increasing the weight or tempo. But in these classes, people tend to use the same weights week after week. The instructor tends to do the same reps or moves at the same tempo and may not encourage the students to progress.

Progression- How many of these classes are trying to progress the participants from week to week?  It’s difficult to make the class progressively more challenging if new people are constantly showing up. So, they end up changing the sound track but not the moves.

What they don’t tell the participants is the truths of fitness: (1) Sometimes reaching goals is not going to be fun, (2) Following the crowd won’t always get you where you want to be, (3) Don’t waste your most precious resource, time.

Lastly, this is not to say that group classes never work. If you go from doing nothing to taking classes, there will be some improvement but you probably won’t reach your final goal.

Running and Women2

Women tend to use running as a means to lose weight. This is for many reasons.  Women are often highly recruited for fund raisers that involve running. These seem fun and easy to participate in. Not to mention make one feel good about supporting a cause. Many coaches recommend huge amounts of cardio to lose weight. However, steady-state cardio can devastate a woman's metabolism. It can do it to men as well, but not as often. The last trap is that we so often hear that to lose weight we just need to do more cardio. But this only seems to work if you have no base cardio rate.

T3 is a hormone produced by the thyroid. I,t along with the T4 hormone, are responsible for regulation of the metabolism. It is very important for weight management that this remain stable. 
It has been shown, that in women, T3 rates can soar due to cardio overwork, causing fat gain just when the people are trying do the opposite. It can also start to burn muscle and cause excessive bone loss. Things that no one wants. 

Conclusion - Both articles go much more into depth and I hope you will read them. The idea behind them can benefit not just women but anyone trying to meet a fitness goal. Good luck to anyone with a fitness goal in the New Year!  Here are links to both articles.

1.Group Fitness
2.Women Running Into Trouble

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I am finally getting to start back working out and a month off means I’ve lost a lot of strength. For me, that is a motivator. Ask anyone that knows me well and they will tell you I’m overly competitive. I like to work out like I have a chance at some imaginary sports career. Yes, I understand I’m 45 and have no hope of being an athlete. But, I’m a Type-A personality, so goals and being #1 are a huge motivator for me.

It’s probably a good thing neither of my children got into sports in any serious way. I would have pushed way too hard for them to be the best.  Not the best look for a parent. This personality disorder has meant I also have a hard time understanding why others don’t want to be as serious as I do about whatever sport I’m into.

When I started playing golf, I played every weekend. I walked the course because pro’s did. I played when it was 100 degrees out. I admit, I hate cold weather so I did stop during the winter. It was fun but frustrating to me. Not because of the game itself, but because I could not improve. I could hit a ball straight as an arrow, but not very far. I could putt fairly well, but not chip. Golf is not a sport you can improve at without lessons and it was just too expensive. So, golf went by the wayside after a few years.

Weight lifting is a sport you can get further on by researching things yourself. I’ve enjoyed trying new programs and learning the technical aspects of lifts. But the commercial gym I was at frustrated me. Not because they were not nice, but because the other people were not serious. No one was pushing themselves or thought I should. Why even show up if you just want to walk around and talk/flirt between doing a few lame exercises. What is the point of being on the treadmill just walk at a snails pace because you are talking on the phone and don’t want to be out of breath. Not to mention the people that came just to tan and took up limited parking spaces.

After finding a gym where people workout to the point of puking and think that is great, I am in my element. I want someone to call me a sissy for not pushing the prowler with more weight. They mean well and want to help me work harder. They appreciate my hard work and want me to do the same. No excuses and No slacking off. Just hard work and fun.

However, I am also learning that environment is not for everyone. The commercial gym can provide a service just a valuable. For many, there is a transition period between sitting on the couch and going all out. There needs to be a transition place. Maybe that person on the treadmill, talking on the phone, will progress to walking faster and finally running. With encouragement, people can move forward.

So there is room for everyone and not all people are competitive and driven by competition. I read a great article by someone else that learned this in his personnel training career. You can find it HERE.  Even if you are not Type-A like me, it’s a good look at how trainers think and what you can find out there. Give it a read.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How did this happen?

OK, I've been MIA for a bit but I have good reasons. It's been a rough couple of weeks. My father passed away just before Thanksgiving and while going to the gym to relieve some stress I dropped a 45lb plate on my foot and totally destroyed my Big toe.(I did finish the workout before going to the emergency room) I had no idea that a Big toe was so important but breaking it in 4 places get you a lovely non-walking cast, crutches, and a lot of trouble. Three weeks in, I am finally in a walking boot that I can't take off even to sleep but believe me that is a huge improvement.

So the point of this post is not to get a bunch of sympathy, although it is welcome, but to examine how I feel sitting on the sidelines. Two years ago when I started exercising on a regular basis and lifting weights, I did it to try and look better and get healthy. It was not something I enjoyed all that much. I made myself go because getting close to 45 and being a wreck was not an option. Each workout was just that, work. 

What I have found out now, is all that changed somewhere along the way. Somehow working-out became one of the most fun things I do. My friends at the gym are a support system and my husband/workout partner, a great asset. Just thinking about how much time I was going to lose for being careless made me angry and I wanted to cry. Losing even a little of my hard won progress was not acceptable. At some point, exercise changed from work to fun. Don't ask me when it happened, because I can't pinpoint the time. But it did happen. Something that was a chore has turned into an activity I enjoy and that makes me feel accomplished. Believe me when I say I never thought that would happen. I was never an athlete when younger.

Even hurt and unable to walk, I went to the gym and watched my husband. I did as much upper-body work as I could and my non-injured leg is probably much stronger now. Who knew it was so much harder to bench press without your legs! Watching my husband hit a 15lb PR on Squat at 325 was bitter sweet. I'm so proud of him, but I wanted to be there with him hitting my own PR. The rush from bettering your last lift is addictive and I'm in withdrawal. I never thought this would happen!

I want to thank all the people at NBS Fitness that have been so supportive and not laughed while I hobbled around doing what I can. Everyone has cheered me on, asked how I was doing, and managed to not trip over my crutches.

The message of this story is that even if you don't like exercising now, you can grow to enjoy it. Sometimes things that start out as work become fun. I try and remember my favorite quote from Coach Bear Bryant (my hero), “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success.”