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Archive for the ‘Strength training’ Category

A quick check-in

Missed the gym yesterday but my muscles were still kind of stiff so it was just as well. Weights this morning. I wanted to go back to bed, but it was my own damn fault I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, so I made myself go to the gym.

I’ve determined that my squat form isn’t getting appreciably better and it’s probably good enough to add weight to the bar. So last time I added 10 pounds and this morning I did the bar, then 55, then 60, then 65, with 10 reps each. I think I can ramp it up fairly quickly and soon I’ll be doing more on squats than I do on bench (currently 85 with 6 or 7 reps in the morning).

On Saturday I went out in my Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) for the first time, running. It was every bit as glorious as I remembered. I wanted to run longer, but I forced myself to turn around and go back home, and then to walk rather than do another running interval, because I knew I’d already used up my muscles and I didn’t want to repeat the being-unable-to-walk-properly-for-four-days thing that I did the last time I started running in these shoes. The next day I was stiff right away when I woke up, and Monday morning I was still stiff, but this morning I was good. Tomorrow the high will be 60 so I’ll do another interval set in the morning instead of going to the gym, and then I’ll take K to the park in the afternoon. We’ll try the swings and see how she likes that. I’m really looking forward to it.

So far, I have lost 5 pounds from my starting weight of 182. 1 pound was unconvincing — could have been milk or water weight. Going under 180 for the first time in a year was encouraging. 5 pounds, that’s fat loss right there. That’s calorie restriction paying off. That’s proof I really can lose weight; I’m not stuck with this fat forever. I can do this! And I can’t wait to see 175, then 170, and when I see 169.5 on the scale I am going to need to do something special.

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More goals

The good news: I saw 179.5 on the scale a few days ago! When I saw that number, I really started to feel like I can actually do this.

The bad news: it was only once (though I haven’t been above 180.5 for at least a week now), and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. So tomorrow I begin my food journal again. It might be more useful now that I have a scale (Mom got me one for Christmas; it has nutritional information for a bunch of foods, which is pretty neat) and can weigh out exactly how much dried fruit I am putting on my oatmeal.

Other news: I have begun going back to the gym and boy does it feel good to be working out again. I am down to the bar with squats, but I’m getting better with my form so I hope to add some weight soon. I can bench 85 with 8 reps, 90 on cable back row (I don’t think I lost anything there, not really that surprising considering I pick up and put down a 14-pound baby all day), and I can do dips with 120 assist, which is close to where I was before, I think, especially since I’m a couple pounds heavier than I was then. I’ve also been spending time on the elliptical, since I can get a higher heart rate with much less impact than running. I also plan to restart walking in my FiveFingers outside when it gets warm again, which will lead to running, and I can’t wait to run outside in my VFFs around the park now that we live a couple of blocks away. So I need to get in better cardiovascular shape, and lose a fair amount of weight so as not to hurt my knees again, before it gets warm.

This week’s goals:

  1. Not going back over 179.5 after Friday, preferably Wednesday.
  2. 15 minutes of 20/90+ on the elliptical (I did 15 yesterday; it kept my heart rate at a steady 160 according to the machine)
  3. Bench/back row/dips or lateral pulldowns/overhead press/squats/lunges on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, with 30 minutes of elliptical on Tuesday for certain and Friday if schedule permits, Sunday otherwise.
  4. Cook at least one real dinner. Probably with quinoa and ground beef, maybe some broccoli. Ooh, and mushrooms and onion. Maybe use those carrots…

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New Year’s resolutions

I’m a bit late posting this, but better than not posting it at all since putting it up (even where I’m pretty much the only person who sees it) will help cement the ideas in my mind.

My first resolution is to lose one pound per week. So far I’ve failed, but I’m not giving up yet. I’ve changed my eating habits — I’m now eating better and less than I was before. This is a huge step for me. I think if I haven’t dropped below 180 (currently I’m about 182; I weigh myself in the mornings before I take anything in) consistently by Valentine’s Day, I’m going to start up my food diary again. It really helped during my pregnancy, though I quit after the baby was born because I had too much else to deal with.

My second resolution is to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less by June. I actually made this resolution last year, for this one, but I couldn’t have foreseen how long it would take me to recover from childbirth. I intended to start working out again about three months ago. I’m not sure if I’ll make it, since I still have a fair amount of healing to do and it’ll be longer if I start running now, but I’ll definitely do it by the end of this year.

My third resolution is to run a ten-minute mile. I don’t know if I ever have. Before I got pregnant, I could run for a full mile but only if I was barely jogging.

To accomplish these goals, last Monday I went to the gym for the first time in nearly a year. A bunch of my friends have been working out at one particular gym for the last couple of months, so I got a membership there just before K was due, expecting to begin using it no more than two months after she was born (and probably sooner). Well, I failed at that, but I’m going now.

And my god, am I ever stiff! I did squats on Monday with just the bar, for form practice, and my stabilizers are practically useless. I was on my toes the whole way up every time. And though I felt SO GOOD afterwards, my legs were jellified from that point on.

But that didn’t stop me from going back the next morning for cardio. My friends go for cardio in the mornings three days a week in addition to the three days of weights in the evenings, and I was all endorphinated so I said sure, I’ll be here at 6:30 am! And since I said I would be, I did go. Spent about five minutes on the elliptical (which is weird) before a treadmill opened up and I walked for fifteen minutes. I wanted to run but I reminded myself that I’m taking it easy to start with since I’m still healing, and that I don’t want to overdo it and be the fat chick who falls off the back of the treadmill because her legs were still jelly from the squats the night before.

All-in-all, a pretty good start, I think. I’m going back for cardio tomorrow morning, though since I had some swelling I think I’ll lay off the squats for now and stick with upper body for lifting.

Damn, it feels good to be getting back.

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Van’s good again!

Ok, hopefully this will be the last post about the van for a while. Bessie* wasn’t firing on all cylinders, and I mean that quite literally — one of the spark plug wires had been bent and/or frayed, and the plug wasn’t firing. Tatman’s fixed her up the same day C dropped her off, and they didn’t charge us. They also washed the bird shit off (it was back the next morning since our parking spot is under a tree — god I can’t wait to move) but before they sent her under the power washer, somebody pointed out that because of her new paint, she can’t go under the power washer for two months and the time isn’t up yet. So that means they washed her by hand.

I need to make a yelp post about Tatman’s; they’ve done a great job. State Farm has also been great through this: it’s been relatively painless to deal with them and even though the total repairs cost only a little under their appraisal of the van’s value, they still went ahead and paid for everything.

In other news, we finally started going back to the gym. I was disappointed that I can’t do 110 on the lateral pulldowns anymore, but I haven’t lost much — I can still do 100. (And I’m suspicious of the machines — some of the cable machines at the gym have more resistance than just the weight; maybe the cables or pulleys aren’t lubricated or maybe they’re tightened too much.) I did 65 on the barbell bench press, which is ok but I think I did 85 once before (that was pretty close to my maximum though). We’ve gone back to dumbbell chest press because I want to work the stabilizers more. Legs yesterday didn’t leave me terribly stiff, but it hasn’t been 24 hours yet so we’ll see.

*I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but the van acquired the name “Bessie” toward the end of the honeymoon. It seems to fit the white minivan pretty well. It’s not a complicated or very poetic story…C mentioned that he’d been trying to think of a name but all he could think of was “Bessie”, and I agreed that seemed a good name.

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Did I not say there would be a lot of these?

Seeing as I can’t keep my interest on one thing for very long at all, I’m making this into just a personal blog. Currently knitting is kind of taking over the bicycling, and strength training is sitting idly in the background, only to come out once a day. Not much to say on that topic, except I now have muscles starting to show through my fat and damn, do I have some nice calves. Seriously. I like watching the muscles twitch when working them on the inclined leg press machine.

Speaking of which, two days ago I put three 45s on each side of that machine, 20 pounds more than I’ve ever done. Check me out! I’m now up to 110 or 120 on lateral pulldowns (I can’t quite get 120 all the way down; my muscles just won’t do it), 85 on bench press (won’t be long till I can say “suck it, skinny bitches, I CAN BENCH YOU” without them having to be 4’8″ and anorexic) and 30 pounds each side for dumbbell chest press (though I think I could have done more), 25 on bicep curls, 115 on squats, and 2 20-pound dumbbells for lunges (I am rapidly moving from “hate lunges” to “loathe lunges”). C signed up at the gym last week and the other day discovered that his muscles have been lying to him about the amount of weight he can lift. I like watching him. 🙂

I haven’t lost a single pound, but since I gained a few (up to 175) in the first two weeks when I was at a client site for work and eating out every meal, I haven’t gained more. That’s gotta mean something, right? >_>

It’s so weird how I feel almost sexy now when I’m not in the gym, but I set foot in there and suddenly I feel like a fat slob. Might be the clothes, though, because my workout clothes are not exactly flattering. At least, that’s the thought I’m comforting myself with. That, and if anybody smirks at me, I can say “hey, at least I’m here.”

If I could just get rid of my stomach fat… God I hate doing abs (note: just exercising abs does not get rid of the fat on them, though fat on well-worked muscle looks slightly better than fat on unused muscle — depending on how much fat there is). Except for that one exercise where you lay flat on a bench, hold onto it by your head for leverage, hold your legs out horizontally, raise them to vertical, and then try to touch the ceiling with your toes. To work the obliques, twist your legs during the last part. I like that exercise.

Gear switch! Knitting! I have a few projects on the needles, some of which I’ve taken off (putting them onto a piece of yarn to hold the stitches) to use for the project that I have finished. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I designed it, but I didn’t use a pattern, just cast on the number of stitches I thought I’d need and started knitting. It turned out cute, and now I have a little chenille drawstring bag to put my wallet, phone, and keys in during the wedding so they’re all in one (fuzzy, soft, pretty) place.

Other projects I have started:

  • What was supposed to be a scarf for C but is way too wide (I wanted it wide, but not that wide!). I’m going to find a complimentary color or two, knit several of these way-too-wide scarves, and stitch them together into a blanket. In the meantime, I’ll start a new scarf for him which will actually be a scarf.
  • The first attempt at the chenille handbag, which ended up way too big (I suspect a pattern here, no pun intended) and will need to be partially frogged in order to become anything useful — when I went to the next skein of yarn, suddenly my gauge went to shit and it’s completely fucked now. I’ll probably try to make it a knitting bag, but I may just give it away if somebody says they like it. I’m irritated with it.
  • A second garter stitch scarf with purple so-called “homespun” yarn (it’s from Meijer so I seriously doubt it was actually home-spun, it’s just made to look like homespun). This is on big needles (size 13 for the curious) and I’m knitting it loosely so it’s holey. I really like how it’s turned out, but I don’t know if I’m going to hold onto it.

Future projects:

  • Little gifts for everybody helping out with the wedding. I’d like to try and make more of the drawstring bag that I finished, but I’m not sure if I can make it the way I want to with the needles I have. Anyway, they’d probably just end up in people’s closets. I’d like to try my hand at soap sacks. There are other things I have in mind too but I can’t remember exactly what at the moment.
  • A dice bag for a friend who commented on the color of my 2nd garter stitch scarf (the “homespun” purple one). Apparently that yarn is the same color as some dice that he has. I asked him if he wanted a dice bag and he ducked his head a little and said yes. I’m not sure how I’m going to make a dice bag out of that yarn, because I don’t know how well it’ll work with the small needles I’ll need to use to make it hold dice, but we’ll see.
  • A dice bag for C.
  • There’s a stitch in my new stitch dictionary that’s a star of David. I’d like to make a scarf with that stitch pattern for a “holiday” gift for a Jewish friend.
  • Other Christmas gifts for friends and family. I need to find out favorite colors and such.
  • Catnip mice for my cat.
  • A lace “overskirt” for my white skirt which I don’t wear much because I’m afraid of getting it dirty.
  • Other lace skirts, maybe.
  • A lace shawl. I have some crochet thread for this, and I might do it as a learn-crochet project if I get adventurous.
  • More drawstring bags like the one I completed, only more like what I intended.
  • Hats with the same pattern as the drawstring bag, only with increases instead of decreases so that it, y’know, is a hat instead of a bag.

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Coworker of mine works out, lifting weights, about 5 days a week. When I went with him to a client site an hour and a half away, I joined him at the gym and he showed me a few exercises I could do to work on my arms (strapless wedding dress, and all that, now that the wedding’s 2 months away and I realize I haven’t actually done anything to make myself look good, since my normal exercise isn’t enough). Two days later I could barely move my arms; it was glorious. Later on I worked on my shoulders and back and it took about four days to get most of the soreness out. Then I worked my legs, and that wasn’t so bad, probably because I’ve spent so much time cycling (and didn’t really work the muscles as hard as I probably could have).

So I signed up at the same gym as my coworker (since it has locations in most areas, there will probably be one when I go to a client site) and I’ve worked out three days a week for two weeks. I’ve also been reading a lot and put together a workout of mostly compound exercises using freeweights and cable machines. There are a few reasons for using freeweights, which women tend to be intimidated by:

  • Machines (the non-cable kind) hold you to a specific range of movement. Freeweights make you stabilize yourself, which works the muscles required for the purpose and gives you better coordination.
  • Machines tend to isolate a particular muscle. This means you have to do more sets on more machines, which takes longer. For example, I could do 3 reps on each of four machines to work my legs…or I could do squats, which work the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and gluteal muscles all at once. I could do extra sets of bicep curls and tricep extensions…or I could do dips and pull-ups and work my back at the same time.

I’m not sure I’m actually saying this right, as the information hasn’t quite settled itself into my brain yet, but that’s the general idea.

Much as freeweights are touted, though, there are some things you can’t do against gravity. Pulldowns are easier than pullups, especially when the only place you can do assisted pull-ups (because you’re 30 pounds overweight and female) has a bar whose grip is too wide for you (because you’re a 5’3″ female). Plus the movement is slightly different, which makes exercises that work the same muscle feel like different exercises — helps with boredom.

So. My goals are simple:

  • Build muscle, which will burn fat
  • Gain strength and coordination

From what I’ve been reading, it’s a common fear among women that if they start lifting weights, they’ll bulk up and get too much muscle and be all unfeminine and shit. Also from what I’ve been reading, it’s damn near impossible for a woman to do so without spending hours and hours at the gym every day and eating a very particular diet involving protein powder (ew). So I’m going to focus on building muscle rather than “toning” it (focusing on endurance), which means I need to use enough weight that I am unable — not unwilling, but actually physically not able, as in the muscle simply won’t do it — to do more than 10 reps in a set (and if I can only do 6 on the last set, that’s just about the right amount of weight). Rest for two minutes or so, then do it again, 2 or 3 more times.

I haven’t actually read or heard this anywhere, but it seems to me that if I don’t have trouble scratching my nose after my workout on Arm Day, then I haven’t worked my arm hard enough. If I get on my bike after Chest/Arm Day and don’t wonder if I’m going to be able to hold myself up all the way home, I didn’t push myself as far as I could go. If I don’t get out of the gym on Leg Day and think how glad I am that I drove instead of riding my bike, I should have used more weight.

So here’s my method, which may will almost certainly change as I go:

  • Compound freeweight exercises working major muscle groups
  • 6-10 reps per set, 2-4 sets, 2-3 minutes rest in between sets
  • 3 days per week, no more than an hour per workout
  • Rough schedule:
    • Mondays: shoulders, back, and abs
    • Tuesdays: bike ride or legs
    • Wednesdays: chest, arms, and abs
    • Thursdays: light bike ride
    • Fridays: legs, abs
    • Saturdays (maybe): chest, shoulders, arms, back — lighter weights, more reps, less rest in between sets
    • Sundays: bike ride

I’ll mix it up as I need to, depending on circumstance.

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