A few days ago, I finished stage two of the NROLFW program. This stage took half as long as stage one, which had its pros and its cons: while I never got a chance to get bored necessarily, I definitely stalled in terms of my progress on a few exercises. The book attributes this to a couple of possible issues, but I think my major “problem” was that I started out with weights that were a little on the heavy side, and my strength could not increase fast enough to make significant progress. That aside, I did walk away from stage two with a few key insights:
- I hate (HATE) step ups. Like, I never ever want to do another step up again for the rest of my life. This is where I stalled the most in this stage; for the life of me, I could not advance past 50 lbs on a medium-high step. I could do higher weights on a lower step, but I didn’t feel as though that was as effective (is it?) so I stuck with my 50 lbs for the entire stage. And it was hard for every single workout. And I hated it. Did I already mention that?
- I am officially becoming the obnoxious person who grunts in the weight room. Especially during my last few reps of step ups. I’ll occasionally drop the F-bomb if I’m feeling particularly exhausted. It’s not cute, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but it doesn’t seem to be going away. Sorry, fellow gym-goers.
- Where has the reverse wood chop been all my life? This is an ab exercise that actually feels like it is working my abs, in a good way. I’m happy it carries over into stage 3 because I enjoy doing it and feel like it’s actually effective.
- All this focus on interval training (which I am LOVING) has made me marvel at the fact that I trained for two half marathons. This interval method is the complete opposite of the method you follow when training for an endurance event, and while I think both have their benefits, interval training is the right thing for me right now. It’s fast, it’s intense, and it’s definitely effective. I do not miss slogging through two hour runs right now, but I’ll also never say that I’ll never do it again!
- The workouts are still taking between 25-40 minutes, depending on the rest I need between sets (I’m going more by how I feel and not as much by the prescribed rest periods the book recommends). This is perfect for me—I can still fit in an interval session before the workouts and still be out of the gym in about an hour.
- I’m feeling more confident in the weight room in general. There are a few scary exercises coming up in upcoming stages that I know will make me feel timid all over again, but right now I feel like I know what I’m doing. After six or seven years of lifting weights, this is the first time I’ve had this much weight-room confidence, and it’s pretty fantastic.
- Why did I ever stop doing squats and lunges? I used to love working out my lower body—I think it took me back to my strong-leg dancer days or something—and then I just kind of dropped off on my lower body workouts. But holy hell, squats and lunges do incredible things for everything below your hips. I am so motivated to increase my weights in these exercises because I feel like they are the ones giving me the most pay off.
- My weight hasn’t changed much since the end of stage one, but I attribute that mostly to my eating habits. I know if I was eating “cleaner,” I’d be seeing more results. Plain and simple. Something to work on in stage three!
- I’ve seen another small drop in my hip measurement after this stage (about 1/2 inch) and a small increase in my thigh measurement—all those squats, I guess!
Overall, I’m enjoying the program as a whole. I love the structure of any program—I’m just the kind of person who enjoys walking into the gym with a plan! I’ve already started stage three, and so far, it is HARD. I’m looking forward to continuing and seeing what kind of results I get as I go forward!
This past Wednesday, I finally completed stage one of the New Rules of Lifting for Women program! It took me about eight weeks, a week or so longer than the book suggests (only because I spent a week visiting Nick in NC for my spring break and had no access to the heavy weights that I needed). I move on to stage two this week, but before I start the new stage, I thought I’d take a minute to recap my thoughts on stage one, and a glimpse into my results.
- Stage one is longer than any other stage in the program (16 workouts as compared to the 8 in stage two, for instance). For that reason, a lot of the reviews of the program suggested that stage one is tedious and boring. I actually didn’t feel this way at all. I appreciated the time that it gave me to get comfortable with the exercises and to see steady growth over the course of the eight weeks. If there had to be a stage that was longer than the others, I think stage one was the best choice. It gets you acclimated to the program and comfortable with the weights and your own strengths and weaknesses.
- That being said, I am definitely ready to move on to stage two! I’m a little nervous because some of the exercises are unfamiliar to me, but if I learned anything from stage one it was to be confident in my abilities and to take it slow and steady until I’m comfortable with the movements.
- Ok, I revise that. If there’s anything I learned from stage one, it’s that I definitely underestimated my own strength and abilities in the weight room for the last, um, eight years or so that I’ve been “lifting” (and yes, I use that term lightly). Once I started challenging myself (which the program insists you do—it’s the entire point!), I realized I was stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.
- The best example of this was the optional “special workout” that came at the end of stage one, in which you complete as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of each exercise, using the amount of weight you used in your very first workout. Where I used to max out at, say, 20 reps of squats, I realized during the special workout that I am capable of doing at least 40-45. Yes, I gained strength as the program went on (more on that in a second), but my endurance seems to have increased as well.
- I definitely gained strength, without question. I’ve been able to steadily and comfortably increase my weight almost across the board, and I’m seeing physical results as well. My biceps are more defined, and my legs and butt look completely different than they did eight weeks ago. My measurements have stayed relatively steady (minus a one inch loss from my waist, half inch loss from my bust, and half inch loss from my thighs), and I’ve lost nearly three pounds (which I’m also attributing to extra movement–like walks after dinner–and cleaner eating, in addition to the program).
- I haven’t completely given up cardio, but I have tried to switch over to more of an interval-based approach (which the book recommends). At this point, I’m generally only completing one or two steady-state cardio session each week (and never on days when I lift). All other cardio workouts are intervals, which are definitely harder—but over faster!
- One of my major concerns was that lifting workouts wouldn’t be enough of a workout for me. Um. WRONG. So, so wrong. By the end of the stage, my lifting workouts were taking about 30 minutes, and I was a sweaty, exhausted mess afterwards. Fitting in intervals was sometimes really difficult, and the most I could get myself to do was walk on an incline. That was a great wake up call for me: lifting can be an incredibly effective workout—if you actually CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Duh.
- I’m still trying to fit in more protein, but it seems like I can never get in enough! I don’t like to rely on powders, but I definitely try to fit in some whey protein on lifting days. Otherwise I’m relying on Greek yogurt, chicken, tuna, turkey, eggs, etc. I try to eat a serving of protein at every meal, and even in most snacks. I’m taking the whole “protein after lifting” thing very seriously, and I do think that it makes a huge difference.
So that’s where I stand right now: about eight weeks in, seeing results, and feeling confident–albeit a little intimidated about the new stage of the program. I’m excited to see where I’ll be in another month or so!
Or “a rambling mess of thoughts related to my decision to begin a legitimate strength training program.”
Hang on, kids. This is going to be a wild one.
So remember when, about a year ago, I said I was going to order The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROLFW)? I didn’t.
Remember when I said I was going to incorporate strength training more seriously and frequently into my workout regimen? I guess I incorporated it more frequently, but definitely not more seriously. As in, none of my strength workouts left me sweaty. Or sore. Which I’m pretty sure is what is supposed to happen when you are lifting heavy things.
Part of the problem was the fact that I am a fully self-declared cardio lover. I love the stress relief and therapeutic effects of a good run or kickboxing class. I like feeling really disgusting and sweaty after a workout, as proof that I kicked my own ass. And yes, I love knowing that I am burning calories. Lots of ‘em.
So my usual routine is to go to the gym and focus COMPLETELY on cardio. Endurance, intervals, whatever. And then, two or three times a week, I’ll do some squats, a few chest presses, and a couple of planks and call it a day. Is this better than nothing? Sure, I think so. Is it truly effective? NO. Not even close. I’m not getting any stronger or firmer, at least not that I can tell.
I’ve also put on every single pound I lost this summer. This is a pretty common and vicious cycle for me: lose a few lbs in the summer (thanks to walks after dinner, a LOT less stress, and a huge focus on fruit, salads, and smoothies) and put them back on in the winter (thanks to shorter days/less activity, a LOT of stress, and a huge focus on carbs and anything else that resembles comfort food). I’m really pissed with myself because I know this cycle is not inevitable, but I continue to allow it to happen pretty much every year.
So basically, something needed to change. Or rather, a lot of things needed to change—but the change itself was what was important to me. Even as someone who is so attached to my routine, I’ll actually be the first to admit that it’s probably my routine that’s keeping me stuck. If I want anything to change, whether it’s to get stronger or lose those winter pounds (or, ideally, both), I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and expect anything different as a result.
So here’s what I’m doing, in no particular order:
- I finally ordered NROLFW, and I read it cover to cover in a few days.
I appreciated the author’s writing style, and I found the book to be very clear, concise, and logical. I don’t love everything about the meal plan (way too much focus on dairy and protein powders, IMO), and I think stage 1 of the lifting plan might actually be too “beginner” for me, but I am committing to the six month program. I’m “signing on” for this just as I “signed on” to train for two half marathons. It’s the same mentality, just with a different focus, and I know if I approach it that way, I’ll probably stick to it (considering I stuck with my HM training plans like the type-A psychopath that I am). I haven’t started the program officially yet, but I have been doing some older weight routines with heavy weights this week to prepare myself.
- I’m accepting that, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, I need to eat more to weigh less. I’ve been tracking my calories and exercise with the Lose It app since this summer, so I know that I’ve been under eating. So how have I been gaining weight? Well, from what I can tell, I’m eating too few calories at meal time and am making up for it in snacks at the end of the day. Lose It allows you to break your day up into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and according to my calculations, I’m eating nearly twice as many calories for “snacks” than I am at breakfast. That’s CRAZY. This week, I’ve been playing around with my routine meals—eating more at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and my pre-gym snack, and realizing that I’m much more satisfied at the end of the night. I’m not mindlessly eating peanut butter/cereal/cookies/blahblahblah because I’m comfortably full. As a result, I’m not taking in these crappy, useless calories before bed. It’s such a duh moment I feel silly admitting it, but it’s the truth.
- NROLFW recommends 1,700 calories a day for a woman who is lifting on their program and trying to maintain or even lose some weight. That’s a solid 400 calories more than I usually eat in a day. The logic in the book is that you need those calories to keep your metabolism up, especially on a heavy lifting plan, which makes sense. I do have to admit, however, that it’s going to be hard to get myself to swallow that advice (pun intended). After so many years of thinking that weight loss = eat less + move more, the idea of eating more to weigh less IS a mental block I need to get over. Slowly but surely, I guess.
- I‘m eating a LOT more protein.
I bought my first tub of protein powder, and I’m going to experiment with making my own protein bars (because those things are EXPENSIVE). I’ve been eating half of a Think Thin bar before my weight workouts this week, and the other half at the end of the workout (don’t let the name of the bar put you off: they have 20 grams of protein and zero grams of sugar. And they taste amazing). I’m still eating Greek yogurt and eggs and lean protein like chicken. I’m still not even close to the amount of protein NROLFW recommends, but I’m getting there!
- I’m eating better in general. I’m finding that the more I focus on my goal, the less desire I have to eat crap all day. So that’s a happy side effect, I guess.
- I’m changing up my cardio. NROLFW really emphasizes giving up endurance cardio for the sake of endurance cardio (for a whole bunch of reasons). The author does provide alternatives, mostly as interval workouts. Again, for someone who has spent the last few years in the “eat less, move more” mentality, it’s hard to give up cardio as I’ve done it for so long. But I’ve started focusing on quality over quantity and realized that I can actually get a MUCH better workout during a 20 or 25 minute interval session than I do with 45-60 easy minutes on the elliptical. And saving some time doesn’t hurt either.
- I’m finding that I can lift more than I thought I could. I challenged myself to lift heavier this week, and I could. Actually, I could with a fairly small amount of extra effort. That’s a confidence booster.
- I’m figuring out how to rearrange my schedule. Not just for the workouts, but for my meals too. Just for example: protein bars before and after my workout mean that I’m not hungry for dinner at my normal time…so I eat later. Easy swap. Less easy for me to give up is my time in the gym. I know that sounds psychotic, but I genuinely look forward to my workouts most days. It’s time for me to be alone, to relax, and to re-energize after a long day at work. The NROLFW plan suggests you’re only in the gym 2-3 days a week, which some people love. They do offer alternatives for crazy people like me who actually want MORE workouts, so I’ll give that schedule a try.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m going to start the program “for real” either this weekend or Monday (meaning take my body measurements, track my workouts, follow the schedule, etc.) I’ll be posting here occasionally to update my progress, mainly to hold myself accountable to someone other than myself! And if any of you have done a program like this, I’d love to hear your experiences/advice/etc.
Lately, life has included a lot of this:
(I almost break out in hives just looking at this pile of essays. And they’re from last quarter. Post traumatic grading disorder?)
And an equal amount of this tossed in for good measure:
(That would be my thesis timeline. Is it May 1st yet?)
Not to be one of those really obnoxious people who complains about being busy all the time, but…
life has been really busy. Exciting, and productive, and a lot of other good things, but also busy.
As a result, a lot of things have been moved to the back burner. My workouts are shorter (but surprisingly more effective. That’s a good thing, I guess!), and my meals have been a pretty sad combination of quick, easy, and very, very repetitive (there goes my goal to start cooking outside the box. Maybe that will finally start in, um, June?) And while it’s probably been good for my waist and my wallet, I haven’t been baking nearly as much. But old habits die hard, and I do still love baking for Nick when he comes to visit every two weeks. It’s the least I can do considering all the travel-hassle he goes through to get here, and it gives me an excuse to get back in the kitchen.
And I’m glad I had an excuse, or I might not have come up with these:
Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Brittle Cookies
(adapted from Doughmesstic)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not instant)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup all natural chunky peanut butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup peanut brittle
- Preheat oven to 350*.
- Mix dry ingredients (flour through oats) in medium bowl until combined.
- In bowl of a stand mixer, cream butters and sugars. Add in vanilla and egg and mix until combined.
- Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, then fold in chocolate chips and peanut brittle.
- Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place evenly on baking sheet.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes.
These are just the right balance of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, and based on the best food combination known to humankind: chocolate and peanut butter. You can’t go wrong!
Now who wants to give me an excuse to make something other than a stir fry for dinner? Anyone?
Have you ever looked up the definition of resolution? No? Then you must not be a dorky English teacher like myself! Apparently, the dictionary definition of resolution is a bit different than the goal-setting variety we all think of around the new year. The act of revising, solving, answering, determining? I don’t know about that.
A few weeks ago, I said that I wasn’t sure whether I’d set resolutions for 2013. I thought about it quite a bit over Christmas break and, eventually, I decided to forgo the resolution bandwagon. There’s nothing for me to really “solve” or “answer” this year, but there are things I want to do and accomplish before the year is up. 2012 was a bit weird; at times I felt like I was just biding my time: slogging through my Master’s program, making my way through work, going through the motions of a long distance relationship. There was some very bad (the loss of my grandmother, for instance) and some very, very good (I got engaged to my best friend), but mostly 2012 felt like a transition year for me.
On the other hand, 2013 has a lot in store for me: this is the year I graduate from my Master’s program (!), the year my long distance relationship is no longer long distance (!!), the year I dive headfirst into planning our wedding, the year I move forward in my career. If 2012 was a year of transitions, 2013 is looking to be a year of big freaking deals.
So there are the obvious goals I want to achieve: of course I want to complete my Master’s thesis on time and graduate and walk across that stage like a boss. Of course I want to continue to maintain my weight loss, and continue to meet new friends and nurture my old friendships. But there are some other things I’d like to see happen this year, too:
I want to be more adventurous in the kitchen.
It is so, so easy for me to fall into a cooking rut. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m generally only cooking for myself, and I can be really lazy when it comes to looking for new recipes or shopping for new ingredients. It’s so much easier and efficient to keep cooking the same old stuff. But I’m bored, and when I get bored with my food, I stop enjoying it. I have so many cookbooks and food magazines and resources at my disposal; I finally want to start utilizing them and get back to enjoying my time in the kitchen (and the fruits of my labor!)
I want to plan my wedding in the most efficient and stress-free manner possible.
Considering we have sixteen months to go, Nick and I are at a really good place with our planning. We have some big ticket items knocked off the list, but we obviously still have a LOT more to do. We’ve tried to delegate tasks to each other, and we are so lucky to have friends and family offering us their time and assistance. Truth is, I got really bogged down in the early stages of the planning, and it very quickly became overwhelming and not fun at all. Once I stepped away, I reminded myself that, in essence, we’re just planning a really awesome party. At the end of the day, if Nick and I are married, I’ll consider it a smashing success. Every time I start getting overwhelmed, I remind myself of this and feel a little (ok, a lot) better.
I want to appreciate living alone. I’ve done it for about 2.5 years now, and I’ve loved it. As much as I hate being away from Nick, I am very glad that I’ve had the opportunity to live in my own space for a little while. I can’t wait to finally move in together, but I know that there are things that I take for granted now that I’ll miss at least a little when we do. For the next few months, I want to take advantage of my situation and savor it, especially since it’s probably the last time I’ll ever be able to! Trashy reality TV, here I come.
I want to cut Nick some slack.
As a result of living alone, I’ve become very, very used to doing things my own way (one of the biggest perks, in my opinion!) When Nick and I DO finally move in together, I want to be open to compromise. I can be unbearably OCD about my living space, which can even annoy the crap out of ME. I want to loosen up and make sure that our home is comfortable for both of us, not just me.
I want to be better.
See this post. I’m about halfway through my 26 acts of kindness, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. A few months ago, I mentioned to Nick that I had a desire to start volunteering; once I started my 26 acts, I realized just how much I enjoy the simply act of helping someone in need. I’m not really sure what I have in mind just yet, but I do know that well after my 26 acts are up, I want to keep this momentum going. I like taking the time to do something for someone other than myself, and I want to do more of it.
I want to cut myself some slack.
Last spring, I finally started limiting the time I spent doing schoolwork outside of school. The way I saw it, I worked my ass off for nine hours a day and deserved some “me” time when I got home. I’ll be real: I cannot successfully do my job without doing at least a LITTLE bit of work at home, but I can limit the time I spend grading papers and planning lessons outside of school hours. And, to be honest, I find that I’m a happier person (and therefore better teacher?) when I do draw the line. I’m going to continue this pattern this year because I think it’s been very good for me, both mentally and physically.
So that’s a rundown of the major things I’d like to work on before the end of the year. It’s going to be a busy one, but I am so, so excited to see it all unfold. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
What are you working on this year? Resolutions, goals, dreams, plans?
There aren’t words to describe how I’ve felt, how anyone’s felt in the wake of last Friday’s shootings in Newtown. To try to put my fear, my anxiety, my rage, my sadness into words would be foolish, impossible, and, quite frankly, ridiculous. I cried pretty much all weekend, which I’m not sure is an overreaction or totally normal. I spoke to my best friend, Nicole, at least twice a day; she lives in Newtown, and her mom was a teacher at Sandy Hook for over fourteen years (she transferred to another school this past fall). I listened to her talk about her sheer disbelief that this was happening in her town, to people she knew. I told her how scared and helpless I felt as a teacher and, if we’re being honest, a human being. I went to kickboxing and kicked the shit out of the bag. I went to the gym and ran as hard and fast as I could. I pinned pictures of puppies for a long, long time. I sunk myself into school work and errands and silly Christmas movies. I obsessively watched CNN and, just as I started to feel sick to my stomach, turned it off and swore never to turn it back on again (cycled on repeat for days).
In other words, I think I reacted the way a lot of people did to this unspeakable, unimaginable horror. When an event is so overwhelming that you have no idea how to deal with it, you obviously don’t deal with it in any clear, sensible, linear fashion. It’s fine to tell myself that how I reacted (and am still reacting) is normal, but honestly, I don’t think it’s enough.
On one of my hard and fast escapist runs, I found myself switching back and forth between two polar opposite trains of thought: this outlook, so brilliantly and honestly parodied by The Onion just hours after the shooting, and the thought that I want and need to be doing something meaningful. I wracked my brain for ideas, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly I wanted to do. Volunteer? Raise money? Donate supplies? There are so many options that it seems overwhelming to pick what and where and how you want to help. The whole thing seems counterproductive. I don’t want to waste time making decisions; I want to freaking DO SOMETHING.
Then Ali wrote this post this morning, and it clicked. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Ann Curry suggested that we commit to 20 mitzvahs or acts of kindness for each of the children who were killed on Friday; Ali and some other folks suggested that we bump it to 26 to also honor the adults who lost their lives. I love that this is all encompassing; an act of kindness doesn’t need to be groundbreaking. It can be so small, so simple, so intimate and personal—and while it will not change what happened, and it won’t bring these people back, and it won’t prevent something like this from happening again, it feels like I’m doing something, anything to feel better. To be better. And to hopefully inspire others to want to be better as well.
I don’t know that I’ll make any resolutions this year. Right now it seems awfully trite to set the generally superficial goals that I set for myself each December. Maybe I’ll change my mind. But for right now, the only thing I want to commit to are these 26 acts of kindness. I don’t know when I’ll complete them by, I don’t know what they’ll be quite yet, but I hope they’re a start of something bigger and better than myself.
Real Simple had this awesome-sounding recipe for Red Lentil Curry, and I’ve been planning to make it for the last few weeks, ever since I saw it in last month’s issue. Nick and I were planning dinner for Sunday night, and I suggested we finally make it. What a perfect winter dish, right? Warm, spicy, comforting, and filling. I had all the ingredients on hand except the red lentils; when we were grocery shopping, I couldn’t find red lentils, so I got green ones instead, assuming there couldn’t be that big of a difference. Right?
When we were cooking last night, and my curry was looking more like a soup, I Googled red lentils vs green lentils and found (a little too late) that, apparently, red lentils create a stew texture when cooked, while brown and green lentils, um, don’t. Whoops.
So I apologized to Nick, and spooned out what was now a soup instead of a stew, hoping for the best.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned in the kitchen, but if you’re very lucky, a kitchen fail can turn into one of the most delicious meals you’ve made in a while. This was just a very happy accident that convinced me to never buy soup in a can ever again (no, seriously. This was nearly just as easy, and way, way more delicious!)
Here’s the original curry recipe from Real Simple if you’re interested in the real thing; my soup was a result of the following changes:
- Sub ground ginger for fresh (just what I had on hand).
- Sub one whole yellow onion (chopped) for the scallions.
- More carrots!
- Sub one peeled, chopped sweet potato for the russet potato.
- Sub green lentils for the red.
- Sub low-sodium chicken broth for vegetable broth (just using up what I had on hand!)