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Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

I left my gym bag out in the rain the other night. Everything was drenched including my training log. I was reaching the end of the book anyway but this officially killed it. It’s been sitting on my table drying ever since & it is finally dry enough to carefully peel the pages apart & do a little analysis of my progress.

I started this log book on April 22nd, 2010 making me 18 months post-partum & weighing in at more than I am comfortable sharing (let’s just say NONE of the baby weight had left me).

Ending this log book on July 15th, 2011 I was 30lbs lighter & 28 weeks pregnant. I’m still not telling you my weight ’cause I suspect you can do the math.

Squatting has long been the most difficult lift for me. I started with box squats (squatting to a box with mats underneath it – as I progressed we removed mats until I the box was low enough that I was hitting depth) & 95lbs on the bar. I will admit right now that squatting brought me to tears more than once out of pure frustration at how slow my progress was.

We finally lost the box on November 2nd! That is over 6 months of weekly workouts to get my squat deep enough (the goal is hips below the knees or at least bringing the thigh parallel to the floor).

Last week my top set (heaviest of the day) was 175lbs for 6 reps.

We have found that I very much need to have some weight on the bar to help me getting to depth. With an empty bar I very much struggle to get deep enough. Interestingly the pregnancy has seemed to really help me in this respect because it has helped my hip flexibility in conjunction with attention to stretching. In February I competed & almost missed all 3 of my squat attempts due to depth but now most of my squats while training are deep enough.

Deadlift has long been my favourite lift ’cause it is my best one (how can you not like something you are good at?!).

At the start of this logbook I pulled 185lbs for 5 reps as my top set. Last week I pulled 220 for 5 reps on my top set. My form has improved here too with the improvements in my hip flexibility making it easier to get into a good starting position & to keep my hips down therefore not rounding my back so much.

Bench press has progressed from a lift I didn’t enjoy to one I look forward to. My first bench session had me pushing 100lbs for 3 reps. Last week I hit 105lbs for 10 reps. The numbers here don’t look very impressive but my form has improved significantly. It took many months to find my arch (in my back) & utilize my legs in the lift. This spring we backed my numbers off twice because of form issues but I’m pleased that I am working back up.

I have not tested one rep maxes for any of my lifts recently so currently my known one rep maxes are: Squat – 190lbs, Deadlift – 320lbs & Bench – 115lbs. I must admit I am anxious to be able to test these after our baby arrives as I think it will be interesting.

Lessons learned over the past 14 months:

1. Progress doesn’t tend to happen in nice, predictable, evenly-spaced steps. It’s more likely to be seen in leaps, plateaus & back-steps.

2. Perseverance takes concerted effort at times. It is SO much easier to stop & the world is happy to accept your excuses, in fact sometimes it seems the excuses are constantly being given to you.

3. Sometimes it is necessary to ignore those around you. This has become especially true since I found out I was pregnant. Everyone agrees that if you were doing it before you were pregnant you can continue it while pregnant – in theory. In practice very few actually believe this & I have spent the past 28 weeks fielding questions & concerns & doubts about whether or not I should be lifting at all.

4. It’s ok to cry in the gym, as long as you keep going. I haven’t shed tears there in some time but when I am pushing through a tough set & feeling like I cannot finish I can remember those times I cried but continued & pulled through & it gives me the strength to keep going. Those memories also remind me why it is important to stick with the workouts – I never want to go back to that out of shape place.

5. Building confidence in one area of your life really helps build it elsewhere. I think I hold myself taller & present with more confidence & life overall. I know there is something I am working hard at & getting results in. It boosts my morale.

I am excited to see what results the new logbook will reveal when I reach it’s end. It is interesting to see the numbers grow but it’s the memories of those workouts that are a big part of the progress. I can look at some of the numbers & see that there has been little improvement but I know that now I power through those accessory sets with strength & stamina where the first few months were painful & slow. I can feel twinges in my legs or back or shoulders the day after a workout now whereas a year ago I was aching for days from a similar workout – my recovery has improved so significantly.

On a related note I developed gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy. It was an incredibly stressful time & required not only the use of insulin (despite my best efforts at the time with my diet & exercise) but a short hospitalization to get that insulin adjusted properly. Not surprisingly I have once again been challenged with gestational diabetes but am able to keep my numbers within range through my diet & exercise alone.

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This is what one of my training partner said to me as words of encouragement while I grunted through a set of leg press yesterday morning. By the way, laughing doesn’t improve your strength in the moment.

The BIG thing I learned with my pregnancy with my Little Man is that I backed off my workouts way too much, way too soon. I worked out throughout but by the end was really not doing very much comparatively. And we make mistakes to learn from them, right?

So far I am pretty pleased with how my training sessions are going. Despite being tired all. the. time. I am making it for all my planned sessions & pushing hard through them. We’ve had to drop my weights slightly in a few things but for the most part I’m holding my own which feels good.

With bench press we had to drop my weight, twice. The suspicion is that this is due to the body fat loss I’ve had more than anything but it is giving me a really good opportunity to really focus on form, which can be more difficult with more weight.

My squat is REALLY making me happy. I’ve struggled so much with squatting, I just can’t hit proper depth with much ease but the relaxing of my ligaments & such with the pregnancy is really helping in this regard. I still need to have a good warm-up & focus but I’m much more consistently hitting depth.

It’s interesting how you can not know something about your body until you start pushing it a little. A few years ago I would not have been able to tell you that I had particularly tight hips, I likely would have just blamed my weight.

Deadlift has always been my favourite & strongest lift. I pulled 255lbs x 3 yesterday. I had been aiming for 5 but the 3 I got were solid so I can’t be unhappy with that.

My baby may not actually be stronger for all my efforts but his/her mommy sure will be! And we’ll both be healthier.

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It’s been almost 2 weeks since the powerlifting competition I entered in Toronto. It was a good weekend overall, decent driving weather, a well behaved 2 year old, visiting with good friends & of course the meet.

Me! At the end of a very long day.

The day started off with, what for me is, a very early rise of 6:00 as I wanted to be on the road by 6:30. We had an hour drive in the snow to be there in time for weigh-in at 8:00.

After weigh-in we got settled & waited for the games to begin. Powerlifting competitions run with three lifts; squat, benchpress & deadlift. For each lift you get 3 attempts & to move on you must successfully make at least one of these attempts. Once you chose a weight you can go up on the next lift but you cannot go down.

Starting with squat was not a confidence booster for me. I struggle with hitting depth on squat (your thighs must break parallel with the floor at the bottom end of the lift). It took me a year to be able to get anywhere near deep enough & every training session it takes a lot of dynamic warm-up & couple warm-up sets of squats before I started reliably hitting depth. As well, the squat is what makes this a first meet for me (I had previously competed in 3 push/pulls – therefore no squat).

We had worked out my starting weight in advance & I felt confident with my opener of 170lbs but when I got on the platform I failed to meet depth. This left me nervous & I requested 170lbs for my 2nd attempt only to have the same problem which brought a landslide of advice from one of the judges & other competitors (it’s really a very supportive sport) which really just made me more nervous. Interestingly half of the women were in my position – first two attempts unsuccessful. The third lift had to be it or my day was over. It was with a giant sigh of relief that I saw those 3 white lights.

There are 3 judges & each gives either a white light for a good lift or a red light for no lift. You need at least 2 white lights for the lift to count.

Here I am getting set up for my first (unsuccessful) squat attempt. (I will have you know I debated a LONG time as to whether or not to post these pics of me in my little stretchy suit.)

The second lift of the day was the benchpress. This was the one that took the most time as along with the 5 flights of lifters there was an additional 6 flights of lifters who were competing in bench only.

My first attempt was 105lbs which I missed due to impatience. The judge gives you commands, when to begin, when to lift & when to rack. This means there is a pause with the bar touching your chest to ensure you have good control. The pause was much longer than I anticipated & I started to press before the command. My second attempt I took 115lbs for a solid press. My third attempt was 120lbs & didn’t leave my chest. I thought it was interesting that every single female lifter missed their last attempt.

Huh! I guess that 120lbs did come a little ways off my chest!

The final lift of the day (& my favourite!) was deadlift. I started with 270lbs then moved onto 290lbs & finished up with 310lbs. I was excited for the 310lbs as I had attempted this weight at the push/pull back in December & missed it thanks to my lousy grip. I’ve been working on my grip & felt confident about this number.

It was ugly - but I got up.

The end results of the day: I finished my first full meet successfully, I brought home a shiny first place medal for my weight class (guess how many in my class?) & pulled the biggest deadlift of all the women (that’s the part I’m most proud of).

Oh, all this while 8 weeks pregnant!

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Tonight I was beyond grumpy when I left the house for my training session at the gym. As I passed the movie theatre it was so VERY tempting to ditch the gym & go drown myself in a bucket of buttery popcorn & a bad movie.

But I didn’t. I did vow to skip my cardio afterwards.

I started off with a little bit of time on the treadmill but it kicked me off & I will admit to crying a few tears of frustration.

Then I walked into the back room where bootcamp was finishing up to start my warm-up. A woman I used to train with immediately remarked that I looked “fabulous” & then another woman whom I only know in passing remarked that she had to do a double take when I came down the hallway because of my weightloss. What a boost!

After a good, sweaty, challenging workout with Sarah I felt great.

I even finished off with my cardio on the bike!

Sometimes getting to the gym is truly the hardest part —- but it is SO worth it.

As for the weightloss: I am now down 28lbs, not so shabby.

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I write a LOT of posts for this blog – in my head. As I’m driving, while lying in bed waiting for sleep (mine or Mr. Magoo’s) & lately on the treadmill. Unfortunately I’ve been doing a terrible job lately of getting those posts typed up.

For Christmas Grumpy Bear got me a gift that is actually at the top of lists of gifts not to get your wife for any occasion, but it was an appropriate gift. I will admit my reaction was very mixed at first. To be honest it took me a good couple weeks to really feel good about this gift.

What was this horrifying terrific gift?

12 weeks with Shelby Starnes, a highly recommended nutritionist (our trainers have been with him for almost 2.5 years). 12 weeks which, as long as I follow his advice, will guarantee I’ll lose weight.

What are my reservations?

The diet is pretty strict – probably the strictest I’ve ever tried (& oh, how I’ve tried different things). I just wasn’t sure I was prepared for it, but Sarah said “you’ll never really be prepared – you just have to do it.” Wise woman.

So I’m now almost 2 weeks in to my 12. I’ve lost 8lbs so far. I don’t expect to continue to lose at that rate but it is exciting to see such a great result right off.

Along with a very specific diet plan (which is carb rotation diet with very specific amounts of protein, carbohydrates & fat per meal) he has also prescribed the supplements I need each day & the timing for these & additional cardio workouts pretty much daily.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

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So when everything was said & done I decided against competing in the Ottawa Women’s Open Powerlifting Competition this past Saturday. Between the OPA (Ontario Powerlifting Association) being unable to prorate the membership (which would be good for 1 month of 12), having to register for the competition & having to buy a little stretchy suit (which a good friend pointed out I should really reframe & call a superhero suit) it was going to be $200.

Instead I went as support to the other ladies I lift with & my trainer, Sarah, who was also competing. I am SUPER glad I went to cheer. Because I was “helping” I was in the backroom with the competitors observing warm-up, listening to all the talk & seeing everyone’s nerves. And then watching the competition I was able to see how a real competition runs & what to expect.

Watching was exciting. So great to see people meeting personal goals, to hear the room erupt with applause when someone pushed HARD & made a lift. Sarah set a Canadian squat record, for her weight category, of 413lbs which was super exciting to watch – it got very loud in that room! Awesomely motivating event to attend.

I have the Push/Pull at our gym in one month which I will most definitely be competing in (& it looks like Grumpy Bear will be too!) – I am going tomorrow to register for it. One month to focus & train hard.

Going on Saturday has been a real turning point for me in my focus & motivation. I have been so focused over the past months on making changes that I can “maintain forever” but I’m not seeing success as far as actual weight loss. It’s been discouraging.

But watching my trainers on Saturday, hearing them talk about their diet & goals & planning made me realize my mistake. They plan ONE week at a time. They focus on ONE week at a time. Sure it’s part of a larger plan but they aren’t worrying about 6 months from now right now.

So I am working hard at focusing on just this week, & on the harder days, just this day. Ok – I can’t go forever without chocolate cake (who can?) but I can make it through this week.

To help me solidify this I have started journalling my food again & will start bringing my journal in to Sarah next week for some added accountability & input.

As for the progress I am making there is a lot to report. Although my weight is still not down my progress in the gym has been going very well. I look forward to my sessions for the most part & have started adding in more cardio sessions. And my recovery is great.

Two weeks ago I FINALLY lost the box on my squat. I have been doing box squats all along to help me with form – especially in getting good enough depth. My hips are tight & it’s taken a year of box squats (slowly lowering the box) & daily stretches to reach a point where I can squat to depth (thighs must break parallel with the floor). This past week I squatted 155lbs for 8 reps without a box!

Today I benched – my next weakest lift. My form is constantly critiqued & is improving slowly. In June I couldn’t break 100lbs. Tonight I hit 130lbs.

As for deadlift, my favourite lift, I had a fabulous session last week. I’ve been struggling with hand strength & have been doing a variety of things to improve it. It’s been frustrating having my hands give out before my back. I pulled a solid 300lbs – something I looked forward to smashing at the Push/Pull.

I can definitely say I am proud of my progress in the gym – but it’s just a stepping stone – there’s still a long way to go.

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I’m watching one of those ridiculous makeover shows. The women were given an assignment to show their least favourite body part & then photograph it – I suppose this was to help her look at her that body part more positively. Eh, I doubt it actually worked.

But here’s what really got me about it – all the women looked wonderful. They all appear to be at a healthy body weight but pretty much all of them linked their disliked body part to their “need” to lose weight. Ugh!!!

I listen to women & their body hate all the time (oy, the gym locker room can be a bad, bad place). The complaints, the excuses for not wearing this or that, the inability to appreciate their bodies.

And I hate that I do it myself.

And it scares & saddens me that I may one day reach my goal weight & still be so unhappy with my body as it seems that is the rule.

All of this is linked to the news that there is indeed going to be a woman’s powerlifting competition in November (we’ve been hoping for this). It’s exciting – this is what I am supposedly doing all this training for. We’ve got an awesome group of women all committed to going.

But I’m afraid.

You see the meet rules state that all lifters must wear a little stretchy suit. As a rule I don’t wear tight things. The idea of being weighed in, having that number out for others to see AND having to wear a little stretchy suit in front of a pile of people while squatting & bending is more than a little bit unnerving.

I try hard to not allow my weight to stop me from doing things, but I’m just not sure I can do this.

Unfortunately time is ticking so I don’t have much time to continue to deliberate. Sigh.

 

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