Monday, July 4, 2011

Done with Stage 6 and fitness hodgepodge

Today, I will post my last set of pictures for the 6-month challenge I was doing over at JP Fitness Forums.  I know myself and there was never any doubt that I would complete the New Rules of Lifting for Women program.  The biggest factor in whether I will finish a program or not is the time commitment.   [That's the only reason I didn't complete P90X.  At the time, I didn't have adjustable dumbbells and it was just taking way too long to finish a workout.]  For the most part, the workouts comprising the NROL4W are very manageable.  At most I spend an hour lifting especially if I have my act together.  If I arrive at the gym at 6, I am out by 7:30 the latest (and that includes 20-25 minutes of cardio and stretching).  For Stage 6, I could be out by 7:00.

I loved Stage 6 for many reasons--including the fact that the workouts were short and sweet.  I got to work on my chin-ups (I can now do three full chin-ups) and push-ups.  The workouts themselves were just really enjoyable and fun.  I looked forward to doing each one and honestly, I could happily re-do Stage 6.  When I think back on the program, there were some stages that were just tortuous and really give me pause when I think about maybe re-doing this program in the future.  But Stage 6?  Oh, it was awesome.  

So now I'm moving on to Stage 7 of NROL4W.  It's the finisher stage.  There are a couple of new lifts I need to study/learn for this stage--nothing too intense.  I hope to finish the program on Wednesday, July 20, 2011, if all goes as planned. 

I feel like I have made many strength gains doing the program but I also feel that I have hit a wall.  It occurs to me that I may need to put on weight in order make any more strength gains but it is really hard for me to think about doing that having worked so hard to lose weight. Currently, I am about 118-119 lbs. and 5'2" and quite muscular which makes me look like I weigh less than that.  I feel really comfortable at this size.  I feel nimble and quick and I certainly don't want to go clothes shopping again.  I am strong--but maybe only as strong as I can be at this size.  But perhaps I can make some more breakthroughs and stay this size but I have a feeling that just 10 more pounds would make a big difference.  

Anyway, I'm taking part of this week off.   Here's what I'm doing:

Sunday Long, Easy Run
Monday Bikram Yoga (it's been forever since I've been)
Tuesday Cathe Friedrich's Athletic Step
Fierce Body workout + 30-40 mins. Yoga
Brutal 8 Exercise Drill + very light stretching 
Thursday Interval run + 20 mins. Yoga
Friday NROL4W Stage 7, Workout 1
Saturday 60 mins. yoga

I've also started really paying attention to my stretching after lifting and running.  If I ignore proper stretching post workout, my hips get so uncomfortably tight.  It's also very meditative for me to take everything down and just be still.  So I've been diligent about devoting 5-10 minutes post-workout to stretching.  I bought a foam roller but I have not been using it with any consistency.  When I do use it, though, I basically follow this routine and it really does feel amazing in a painful release kind of way:

I would definitely like to foam roll more.  Just like I'd like to practice more yoga.  And read more.  And meditate more . . .

Lastly, I've been wearing my Vibram Five Fingers to the gym (the foam roller and the Vibrams are my latest fitness purchases).  I'm very pleased with the Vibrams.  I really like the feeling of being close to the ground--grounded.  They are comfortable to me and I have low arches/flat feet.  I tried running in them on asphalt and concrete and that was really jarring to my knees and hips.  I know that I have to modify my style of running so that it's not painful but I think running in them on concrete reinforced the idea that I have that running on concrete/pavement is not a great idea in the first place.  It's not what we are meant to do . . . I still enjoy running though and I do so mainly on pavement but I will stay with my regular running shoes (my Asics).  I may try the Vibrams on a track one of these days but definitely not on concrete.  But for lifting and floor exercise, the Vibrams have been great.  I love not having to do shoe switcheroos.  I can wear the Vibrams to the gym, lift, do cardio and wear them home.  They won't work in the winter though because they are really just mesh but in the winter I usually have to wear boots to the gym anyway.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finished Stage 5 of NROL4W

I'm so thrilled with my progress in this program.  I was looking at the logs I've been keeping and it's amazing to see how far I have come.  

So I'm done with Stage 5 and I'm going to take a week off from lifting before I start Stage 6.  I'm excited about Stage 6 because I really get to focus on chin-ups and more than anything, I want to be able to do chin-ups.  To me, chin-ups (actually, any move that requires you to use your own body as weight) are the test of true strength and I am ready to be really strong.  

As an aside, I deadlifted 135 lbs. this past Friday.  I had finished my last set of Romanian deadlifts/barbell row combos and I just wanted to see if I could do it.  And I did it.  And you know what?  It wasn't nearly as hard as I had imagined.  Oh, those 45s on each end of the barbell were big and intimidating looking but I deadlifted that weight sure enough.  I had read on JP fitness that deadlifting with any weight smaller than that is actually deadlifting at a deficit and makes the exercise more difficult and there is more risk of injury.  Unfortunately, this was not emphasized in the book.  In fact, in later stages, you are supposed to deadlift from a box (at a deficit) which I did so I was deadlifting at a double deficit because in actuality, I had been deadlifting at a deficit from Stage One.  Now, I'm grateful I have the flexibility I do so I was able to do it with good form.  But I wonder had I started by elevating my bar, how much more than 135 lbs. I could deadlift by now.  

Anyway, these are the things you learn as a novice lifter.  You live, you learn.  And I'm very willing to learn.  

I'm already looking ahead to what I'm going to do after I complete NROL4W.  So far, I think Maximum Strength by M.A. Eric Cressey is looking like my next step.  There's also Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and The New Rules of Lifting.  The options available are really endless.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tip Top

It's no secret that I really dislike the treadmill but I have come to an uneasy peace with it over these cold winter months.  I'm in the gym three times a week to lift weights and the treadmill offers a convenient way to run. Well now that the weather is warming up, I'm excited to get back to running outside and to other types of exercise.  I really feel like my cardiovascular fitness has suffered during these cold winter months.  I know some folks love the treadmill but I really feel like I have actually become less fit using it.   You move unnaturally on it and the machine helps way too much.  A hill repeat on an actual hill will always be more intense.   

I'm finding that I need much longer to recover from high intensity moves that I used to be able to do easily.  And I want to be tip-top shape.  So starting this week, I'm refusing to get on the treadmill.  I'm sticking to skipping rope and interval training (Body Rock TV style and with running)--basically moving my body.  

I think my fitness motto should be that:  Move Your Body.  Just Your Body.  Move it Fast.  Move it Strong. Everything Else is Extra.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Moving Your Own Body

I enjoy lifting weights very much.  There is something about building muscle and getting stronger that speaks strongly to me.  I like working out side by side with guys, often doing the same exercise.  I like proving to myself that women can lift weights seriously. And I'm always encouraging women to get strong.  It's daunting to most women though:  the myth of "bulking up" due to lifting heavy weights is deeply rooted and most women shy away from real weight lifting.  This article presents a very well-rounded and interesting discussion of the topic.

Photo Credit
Though, understandably, many women balk at the idea of lifting heavy weights, one's own body is a heavy weight and at the very least, I think, a woman should be able to move it.  You don't need expensive equipment or lots of time if you're going to be building strength using only your body.  And so this has been a huge focus of mine ever since I started getting into shape.  My fitness goals and routines have always included body weight exercises and I feel truly strong when I'm able to do movements that require only my body like push-ups, planks and chin-ups.  In fact, last year's fitness goals included being able to do 10 regular push-ups.  I can do that and more now (my maximum was 26 in a row).  I can hold a plank for 2 minutes.  And finally, I'm so happy to report, I can do a chin-up.  The other day I did three in a row.  It's still pretty challenging to do these type of body movement strength exercise and so I will keep on working at it. That's the great thing about body weight exercise: you will always remain challenged.  There are thousands of different ways to move just your body that would present a challenge to you.  Has a regular plank gotten too easy?  Lift one foot or one arm.  Push-up are a breeze?  Clap in between each one.  Can you do chin-ups in your sleep?  Grip a sack of onions between your legs and try it now?  

My point is that I need to be able to move my body easily.  Yes, I can move heavy metal weights at they gym but to me, that doesn't represent the total strength picture.  Strength to me is power, that is, strength in motion (NROLFW incorporates power moves with exercises such as the push-press and one-armed dumbbell snatch), agility and acute control of the body.

For women who are hesitant about lifting weight, I say that it's more than enough to build strength through moving one's own body.  It's what BodyRockTV is about.  It's what power yoga is about.  It's what pilates is about.  It's what most martial arts are about.  Being strong physically is something that's often frowned upon in women.  What is encouraged (in the west at least) is that women be frail and dainty and always in need of help.  But strength gives longevity and health.  Mentally, it can only build you up if you know that you are capable.  Really capable.  

Why not be capable?  Why not be powerful?  Why not be strong?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So far, so good

I'm enjoying Stage 2 of NROL4W even though it takes a bit more time to complete each workout than the workouts in Stage 1 did.  I really enjoy the variety although for the first time, I got the sense that I would like to do more somehow.  Be more serious with lifting.  NROL4W is a great introduction to serious gym-style lifting but I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for the next step.  

Currently, I'm in money-saving mode although I would like to purchase some fitness gear soon.  I'm in need of new cross-trainers and running shoe.  I've said before that I'm seriously considering buying a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers but I'm a little hesitant.  I wish there were a way I could test drive them first.  :)  The Five-Fingers would be great because I could lift while wearing them and then go for a run without having to change footwear--anything that saves time is wonderful.  But for indoor stuff at home, I'd either need another pair of Five-Fingers or a pair of cross-trainers (I don't wear outside shoes in the house).  

I would also like a foam roller because it's a great recuperative tool for athletes.  Someone on JP Fitness posted this:
<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Another thing I'd like to invest in are some Iron Woody bands.  Because I would like to be able to do a chin up by the end of the year, I know I have to do some focused work to get there.  I found this interesting way to do assisted chin-ups using the Iron Woody bands. (I would probably do this at home though because I wouldn't want folks looking at me like I was crazy in the gym.)   In the meanwhile, I do 2 sets of 10 inverted rows at the end of my workouts.  I could do negative chin-ups but I will have to do those later on in the NROL4W program and also, I do not feel like I have the time to hunt around the gym for the one and only bench high enough.  There's pull-up machine at the gym, yes, but everything I've read says that's a sub-par way to building up to pull-ups.  Kind of like how doing push-ups on your knees is not the best way to build up to a regular push-up (wall push-ups or push ups on a bar are considered superior).

Anyway, this week I haven't been to the gym because the hubby is away.  I'm looking forward to getting back there on Friday though.  I did get a chance to do a BodyRock TV workout (Fat Fighter Workout) yesterday and it was lots of fun as usual.  I totally love the idea of using nothing but your body to get a great workout.

I hate to be out of my rhythm but ce la vie sometimes.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On the Treadmill

I think I will always prefer running outside.  I enjoy finding new paths to run and basically getting familiar with my surroundings in an intimate way.   You can only achieve that on foot.  But since I joined the gym, I have been making use of the treadmill (and the exercise bike but that's another post).  Initially I thought I would really hate the treadmill--you know, running (sometimes fast) but going nowhere.  It turns out that there are some really cool things about the treadmill.

Photo Credit
First of all, it allows me to run.  This winter has just been brutal and some days I can't go out for a run due to ice or other terrible conditions.  Some days I just don't want to deal with the cold (in another post, I'll give a rundown of my cold weather running gear).  It was a nice surprise to find out that whether I'm running outside or on the treadmill, I just really like to run.  And since I'm in the gym lifting weights three times a week anyway, I've been running more now than in the warmer months.  I finish lifting and then I run for 20-25 minutes--I don't have to carve out another special time to go for a run.  

Secondly, the treadmill keeps track of my stats:  how far I've run, how many calories I've burned, etc. and that's really cool.  While I use to tell me how many miles I cover on a given run, that's the only information I really know when I run outside (since I have not yet invested in a GPS/heart rate monitor watch).  It's interesting to know exactly when I hit 2 miles or to push myself to break 300 calories.  

I don't have any specific mileage goals but during the warmer months I would run about 6 or 7 miles for my long run and 2-3 for my short. Because of the treadmill, I can still keep my mileage up and also it encourages me to keep better track of my miles (I write everything down right on my NROL4W log sheets).  I had always struggled in terms of keeping a training log for my running and while jotting it down on my log sheets is not formal or systemized, I still have a better idea of what I'm doing and how to improve.  

Still, I cannot do a long run on the treadmill.  I get bored far too easily and then I get antsy.  So I've been doing intervals and I have to say, this is a really fun way to use the treadmill.  I enjoy trying different interval combinations.  Here's a site I found with lots of options.  Here is an example of something I've been doing recently which I call 1/2/3/4/recover.

One minute at effort level 1 (an easy pace--you can talk easily, maybe even sing)
One minute at effort level 2
One minute at effort level 3
One minute at effort level 4 (basically sprinting)
One minute to walk it off and almost completely recover

There are many ways to do intervals.  You could do hill intervals by changing the incline (which I haven't done yet but look forward to doing).  The combinations and possibilities seem to be endless.  

Basically, intervals keep it interesting for me.  And It doesn't take an hour--after about 20 minutes, I've worked up a sweat and I'm ready to go home and shower.   I just couldn't do an hour on the treadmill--the thought of it is even too much for me.  But intervals are a quick, effective and fun way to use the treadmill.  I may even continue to use it during the warmer months just because, like I said, I'm at the gym anyway.  

Oh, by the way, intervals that I control (because some of the treadmills have preset interval programs) are made possible by the Gymboss interval timer, one of the best fitness purchases I have ever made.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Moving on to Stage 2 of NROL4W

Technically speaking, I finished Stage 1 of the NROL4W on Wednesday.  There are some special exercises I could add on to the end of Stage 1 just to gauge my progress but these seem to be optional (at least many folks choose to skip them).  However, I'm not quite ready to move on to Stage 2.  

The fact of the matter is that I feel like I really have to sit down, read and do some research about how to properly perform the exercises in Stage 2.  However, I just feel like I have so much going on!  So, I'm hemming-and-hawing about doing the work and therefore about starting Stage 2. 

So what I've decided is to do workouts A and B once more (I did workout A this morning and I'll do workout B on Monday) and then I'll do Special Workout A on Wednesday and Special Workout B on Friday.  The following week, I'm going out of town so I will give myself a break from lifting and really exercise in general.  I definitely need the break and it'll also give me time to read about the exercises that I'll be doing in Stage 2.  I'll jump into Stage 2 on Monday, February 28.

I really wish I could recommend NROL4W flat out without reservations.  But I think if I were to tell anyone to this program, I would follow up with a recommendation that they also join JP Fitness Forums and read, read, read.  There's so much information on there that the beginner would just not know--not even from reading the book cover to cover.  I honestly feel like a lot was left out and you do have to do a lot of legwork to get the details.  I also don't think, and I'm speaking as a person with a degree in English, that it is a well-written book.  Every week or so, a newbie comes on the forums completely and utterly confused about the formats of the workouts.  The convoluted way in which the workouts are laid out is initially the reason why I hesitated to do the program.  I'm not new to lifting weights but I am new to the gym and so I felt doubly intimidated by the whole thing (no idea what I was doing in the gym and only a slight grasp on how to go about the workout).  I'm so grateful for the JP Fitness Forums but I kind of wish the book was more thorough and, basically, more plainly laid out.  It really should be very straightforward even if it adds a bit more thickness to the book.  

But I'm enjoying the program nonetheless.  Really liking it.  I feel like it's a great segue into serious weight lifting.    

I had a protein shake after today's lifting session.  [I will blog about what's in that in the near future (as well as my trepidation about protein shakes).]  I also took my iron supplement (Floradix Floravital Iron and Herbs) something that I often neglect to do.  I was feeling quite run down, sleepy and tired so I thought why not.  I'm always trying to remember to take it before a meal but I always forget.  So I just took it and it has made all the difference today.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's Most Important?

I went to a Bikram yoga class today which I thoroughly enjoyed, as usual.  Towards the end of the class, the teacher asked a question that Bikram himself usually asks:  what is most important to you?  

My immediate, gut level response was "my body".  And what I meant by that was the strength and health of my body--not some superficial "look" but a substantive, long lasting well-being.  

Then my intellect took over and I changed my response to "my boys," meaning my sons.  

The teacher left a long pause for us to think over things and then said, "Your family? You car? Your job?  WRONG!  The health of your body because without that, you can't be of use to anyone or anything."  

My gut level response was right!  And I know it's true.  But society has conditioned mothers to believe that everything else takes precedence and is so much more important than taking care of themselves.  

I fall into that line of thinking from time to time.  I feel like I'm stealing time and attention from my kids when I go out for a run or hit the gym or go to a yoga class.  But that's simply not true.  

I'm grateful for the reminder today.  One more reason to love Bikram yoga.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Stability Ball

I'm always looking for enjoyable ways to work my core/abdominal/back muscles.  

I refuse to do crunches and sit-ups anymore and the popular thinking has changed anyway: there are far better exercises than these for a firm, strong midsection.  For months, I subjected myself to the Ab Ripper X routine (part of P90X) and while I did get much stronger, I hated doing it.  

I had heard about the benefits of using a stability ball for core work but I hesitated to purchase a ball.  Already, I had lots of fitness equipment littering my small living room but I decided to get one to break up the monotony.  I first tried it using Amy Dixon's ball workout in Women's Health Total Workout in Ten.  I was thrilled with how challenging and fun it was!  So I borrowed Quick Fix Stability Ball workout from the library and I really liked that too.  (I actually need to purchase that one).  I knew the stability ball was for me.  

Imagine how thrilled I was to learn that the stability ball features in each exercise of the New Rules of Lifting for Women.  [When checking out the gym, I had to make sure they had ample supplies of stability balls (they did although the inflation of said balls is iffy).]  At the end of each workout in stage one of NROLFW (there's 2) is a stability ball exercise.  For workout A, it's prone jackknife.  For workout B, it's crunches on the ball (which are nowhere as bad as crunches on the floor but still not a favorite).  

I have been adding one more exercise on the ball to the end of each workout because I definitely want to work my core.  After two children, I have diastasis recti and there's plenty of work to do strengthen my core muscles.  To Workout A, I've been adding sets of plank on the ball (basically I just hold the plank position with my arms resting on the ball for 60-90 seconds).   To add even more challenge to Workout A, I will try doing a prone jacknife/tuck combination:

I plan to continue to do the plank on the ball.  

To Workout B, I've been adding 10 to 12 rep sets of swiss ball back extension although this video says you're not supposed to do it on days you do heavy squats.  I will look for a static core exercise to do instead (so I'm not doing the back extension, although I really like that move).  There are lots and lots of static on the ball exercises in the New Rules of Lifting for Abs (which I had to buy after destroying the library's copy--it's just as well, I would probably have bought it anyway after finishing up NROL4W).  Or, I may try side crunches on the ball since there are no warnings against doing this on heavy lifting days.  

My hope is to somehow incorporate this fun way of doing core work into some other part of my day (maybe before dinner).  This way I can get in those exercise I'm not supposed to do on heavy lifting days (like the back extension).  I want it to be a regular feature of my day.  All I really need is 10 minutes . . . but then again, I've been wanting to do 10 minutes of yoga daily and I'm still not getting it in.  

Actually, this is a good goal to work toward in 2011 . . . 20 minutes of yoga/core work/stretching outside of my morning workout time.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's All About the Shoes!

Well, it didn't even occur to me that there would be an appropriate shoe for lifting.  Apparently there is.

I'm really not the position to put out any money.  I just recently had to have my wedding ring re-sized and I will soon need to renew my gym membership.  I went all over today trying to find a good solution but it seems that I will have to fork over at least $40 for some Converse All-Stars (Chuck Taylors).  I spent the afternoon dragging the kids all over town trying to find an inexpensive options.  Apparently, Target carries One-Stars which are almost the same as All-Stars but $20 cheaper.  I saw them on the Target website but I couldn't find them in the store.  I then tried two other stores in the complex (T.J. Maxx and Famous Footwear).  Famous Footwear had a pair for $25 but they had all kinds of bright pink designs on them.  I would have taken them because of the price but they only had one register (despite having three workers in the store and only two customers) and a woman was doing a return and taking forever with her questions (that the cashier had answered already) and my son had to use the bathroom.  Since he's 5 and I had no change of clothes for him, I put the shoes down.  I wasn't thrilled with the color anyway and thought I might do okay close to home.  So we headed into town but the prices were just the same: about $40 for a pair so I couldn't buy them. Trudging through snow and freezing rain to find shoes for lifting . . . not my idea of fun.

Anyway, my sneakers (cross-trainers and running shoes) are on their last legs.  This means that I am looking at almost $200 after just six months.  (((sigh)))  I'm making them work by wearing my orthotics constantly.  But I have to be honest, I'm getting really annoyed at having to switch those things between shoes.  I get to the gym, take off my winter boots, take out the orthotic, put it in my sneaker.  And then do the reverse when it's time to go home.  Too fussy!

I'm really intrigued by the Vibram Five Fingers not just because it's all the rage right now but because they would be appropriate for running, lifting and aerobics.  And they are less than $90.  From an economic standpoint, that's great.  But I still do not want to put out $90 right now.  It seems I will have to just suck it up.  My only thing is that I'm a little nervous about them being a waste of money.  I am flat-footed and have found that the orthotics really help eliminate fatigue and ankle  pain.  I feel it's a little risk that I'm taking sinking money into these shoes.  I hope it pays off.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Winter is brutal on my skin.  I haven't been as diligent with the cod liver oil as I could be but even when I am consistent with it, my skin is dry, ashy and cracks (though not as severely).  Especially the skin on my hands.  This is terrible especially since I also lift weights.  

I'd been reading about how it's better to lift weights without gloves because wearing gloves doesn't allow you to work on your grip strength.  But the calluses I get without gloves are serious.  Very serious.  

I mean, I'm not hung up about the look of them but the feel and sound of them?  I know I'm sensitive to the texture and sound of certain things and when I hear my hand and feelthe skin catching when running it over a piece of fabric?  It's a sensory thing that drives me batty.  

I'm going to gingerly try a pumice stone on the callouses while in the shower and see what happens.  I asked on the fitness forum I'm on what other ladies do for this kind of thing and the answers were less than helpful (along the lines of "I wear my callouses with pride!).  One person said they did use the PedEgg (which is useless on my feet but might work on my hands--where the heck is it???).  

Anyway, not a lot going on right now.  I really need winter to be over.  I've tried to be noble about it.  I've tried to stay in the moment.  But I'm totally through with winter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You don't know squat!

But if you do, you know a lot.  

I promise this is not a fitness blog.  LoL!! I'll keep it brief.

I have learned so much since I started this fitness journey. I've learned about myself, my body, and I've l learned a lot about fitness and nutrition in general.  It was only inevitable that I would also be learning lessons about life.  

Once you've been exercising for any amount of time, you realize you have exercises that you really, really like.  One such exercise for me is the squat.  

It stands to reason that I would really like the squat:  my legs, like most women's legs, are the strongest part of my body.  So while I've always dreaded push-ups (not so much anymore, by the way), I could always look forward to the squat.  In no time, I found myself squatting with 35 lbs. dumbbells in each hand.  My gains in upper body exercises?  Not so substantial.  

Anyway, I've been working out at home for a while now and every DVD that I've ever watched emphasizes these things while squatting:

  • knees should not track over the toes
  • sit back in your hips
  • sit down into the squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor as if you're sitting in a chair
That's really about it.  It's not until I started with NROL4W that I started to look for more information about the squat only because I was no longer using dumbbells (I'm using an olympic bar at the gym).  And I was really surprised.  Really surprised!  

I learned first of all that I could have seriously hurt my knees doing squats the way some of these DVDs instruct!  The first DVD that comes to mind is Jari Love's Get Ripped and Chiseled but also Chalean Extreme.  Not one person in these DVDs (including Love or Johnson) is squatting correctly. 

For a squat to count as a squat, there needs to be some serious depth in the movement. Not as if you're sitting in a chair but as if you're trying to take a dump in a hole in the ground.  That deep.  A squat is not chair pose with weights.  

I've seen videos on You Tube (like the Squat Rx series and An Intro to Squats by Mark Rippetoe) but the article (reading is my way of learning) really drove home the point and helped me really understand what's supposed to be happening when I squat.

I haven't been doing full, correct squats all this time but today in the gym, that was my focus.  I thought I'd probably only be able to squat the bar (45 lbs.) but it turns out that 65 lbs. was a challenge and 70 lbs. is really where I should be.  Thanks to yoga (and my natural inclination to sit on the floor and squat to do close to the floor tasks), it seems I have pretty good mobility in my ankles, hips and hamstrings.  The squatting today felt really, really good . . . and complete in a way that squats never felt before.  I think I love this exercise even more now.  

So, I'm feeling grateful to be learning good form and preserving my joints but I'm feeling a little wary of mass-marketed workout DVDs about weightlifting these days.  Now that I'm learning about the various exercises, I see places where these fitness experts have made mistakes.  I wonder if people could really injure themselves.  I definitely think folks should be more responsible about what they put out when they claim to be an expert.  

This serves as a gentle reminder to always, always, check a second, third and fourth source for information.  Never, ever take what any "expert" says at face value. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

I joined a gym

For two years, I have worked out and gotten into the best shape of my life exclusively at home.  My Powerblocks are almost as important to me as my KitchenAid--and that's saying a lot.  

I've been doing the Chalean Extreme program since the middle of 2010 and I have nothing but the highest recommendations for this program.  Initially, I wanted to do the P90X program but I just couldn't swing the time commitment.  Chalean Extreme is perfect in that it was a serious, all-over strength training program in a time-frame I could handle.  And I'm so pleased with the results.  Chalean completely converted me to the idea of "Go heavy or go home" and I never miss an opportunity to encourage women to start lifting weight--heavy weight.  It's true:  you won't bulk up and look like a man but you will become strong and get that tone that you desire.  Not to mention all the fringe health benefits (like denser bones).  

So after about 6 months of Chalean Extreme, I was looking to do something different.  I picked up The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROL4W) by Lou Schuler and it looked like something I could handle.  I was a little discouraged because I wasn't sure if I could do the program at home (it's designed mainly as a program you do in the gym) but I thought I'd do my best.  It took me a little while to get into the book . . . I don't know, it just wasn't straightforward in the way it was written so I had to figure out exactly *what* I was supposed to be doing each day.  Well, I knew I wanted to start in 2011 so a few days before new year, I really sat down with it to figure things out.  

I did the first workout at home last Monday and it was fine.  I didn't feel like I just *couldn't* do it at home.  I really felt the workout the next couple of days too.  But the Sunday before I couldn't go out to run due to ice on the ground.  Every day for the past couple of weeks, there's been ice to contend with.  I thought maybe I could just put on my ice trax and keep it moving but honestly, that didn't sound smart.  I could wait till later in the day when it thaws out a bit but I really try to keep my working out from interfering with family life, if you know what I mean.  I like to be done before everyone is awake so it doesn't feel like I'm taking time from them.  As it stands now, every other Sunday I go to a donation Bikram class at 2.  Even though it's amazing, I can't shake the feeling of guilt at bouncing in the middle of the day.  

Anyway . . . I need to run.  Period.  Point blank.  And it wouldn't hurt and could only help to have all the equipment that's recommended in NROL4W so I could do it as is.  (Squats especially have become difficult since currently I squat with 35# in each hand and it was getting to the point that the weights were just too heavy for me to hold.)   Even if the treadmill didn't work out, I could definitely do NROL4W and being able to work on my squats with a bar would be awesome.  (I checked out olympic bars and thought about buying one but honestly, I just don't have the space for it--my fitness corner is already well-cluttered.)  So I joined the gym just for a month to see if I could get down. 

I can get down.  I was having my doubts though. This gym is my local gym.  I walk about 10 minutes and I'm there.  It's mostly a weight lifting gym--lots and lots of weights and weight machines.  The culture there is such that there's really no one to ask for help so I have spent a lot time just figuring simple things out.  (I suppose I could have paid for a training session but there's the money issue.  I just . . . can't put out anymore.)   Today, I was very frustrated trying to figure out what bar I was supposed to be using to squat.  Such a simple thing but a source of serious confusion.  I was ready to say that after the month is over, the gym membership is over.  There's not much floor space so if I wanted to do floor work, I'd have to cram myself into a corner and really, the frustration was zapping my energy.  

But then . . . I got on that treadmill.  And started to run.  And it felt so good.  I had worried about how different it would be having always run on asphalt and then running on a treadmill but it was just fine.  I thought I would hate running and not going anywhere. But I really, really, really enjoyed myself.  They gym membership is well worth it for the treadmill alone and monthly membership (if I sign up for a year) amounts to about $18 a month.  Not too bad.  

And as an added perk, I finally got to listen to some of a podcast I had downloaded eons ago on the walk home.  

I think I *like* leaving the house to work out--even in the dead of winter. I can focus better and not worry about disturbing anyone or being disturbed.  I'm glad the gym is in walking distance too because I *know* I couldn't motivate myself to go if I had to drive there.