And just like that, stage three of NROLFW is done and done. A few of my thoughts, in no particular order:
- I liked that this stage was also short (only eight workouts), mainly because I strongly disliked workout B. The majority of the moves felt awkward and less effective than those from previous workouts, but I did make myself stick to them and try to improve as much as possible. I like that these stages are relatively short: it’s just enough time to get better at each move, but not enough time to get bored.
- I didn’t make a huge amount of progress during this stage which I mostly contribute to the fact that I seem to be hitting my max on a lot of the moves (or close to it). For example, no matter how hard I try, I cannot do a lat pulldown any heavier than 90 lbs, at least not without seriously straining my back or compromising my form (neither of which are safe or effective). That being said, I definitely saw some improvements, even if they were small ones: I’m bench pressing heavier than ever before, holding a plank twice as long as I previously could, and am feeling pretty great about my interval progress. Little victories are still victories!
- The bodyweight matrix at the end of workout A KICKED MY ASS. Basically, you do a series of 12-24 reps of four moves as quickly as possible. You then rest for twice as long as it took you to complete the matrix and do it all over again. I saw some great improvement in my matrix times (dropped down from 2:11 to 1:51), but I swear, those four minutes of getting through the matrix was a more intense cardio workout than I’ve had in a long, long time.
- Least favorite workout in this stage: YTWL. Eff you, YTWL. Seriously. You’re awkward and painful and dumb and I hate you. Please don’t show up in any future workouts. Kthanks.
- Favorite workout in this stage: reverse wood chop or dumbbell incline bench press. Simple, straightforward, effective.
- That being said, it’s clear that I like doing uncomplicated, straightforward moves the best. Give me squats, push presses, planks any day. I just feel like I see progress much faster in these exercises, and I don’t second guess my form.
- I haven’t taken my measurements or weighed myself today, but I will say that I feel like I’m seeing some changes in my body, some for the better and some for the…well, not worse. Just not ideal. On the plus side, my stomach feels tighter, my waist feels and looks smaller, my lovehandles are melting away, and my legs and butt look COMPLETELY different. I swear, my lower body hasn’t looked like this since I was 14 years old and dancing several hours a week. It’s remarkable. On the downside, none of my shorts are really fitting right. My butt and legs aren’t bigger necessarily, but they are stronger and higher—so now my shorts are baggy in the waist and tight in the legs. Again, this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s not ideal!
- I looked ahead in the book, and it seems as though the next few stages look almost EXACTLY like previous stages, just with a different number of sets and reps (and, presumably, the assumption that I will be using heavier weights). I’m not totally thrilled about this—I was hoping each stage would be distinctly different than the last, but I guess it will be a good way to monitor my progress?
All in all, I still like the program. I feel like I’ve stuck with it long enough that I’m seeing some solid results, and I’m excited to see what’s coming up next!
I bought a bikini today.
This isn’t groundbreaking. It isn’t strange or shocking or brave.
But it is unusual for me. And by “unusual” I mean I haven’t worn a bikini since I was…eleven?
I wore a lot of tankinis throughout middle school and high school. At my highest weight in college I got into the habit of wearing one pieces—a habit that I couldn’t bring myself to break, even after I lost over 40 lbs (and maintained that loss for over five years). A few years ago, I bought a black one piece from Target that I wore until it was stretched out beyond what is probably acceptable to wear in public.
But since my initial weight loss, I’ve always put off buying a bikini, thinking I’m just a few pounds away from what I “should” weigh before showing that much skin. Even at my lowest weight (probably a solid 8 lbs lower than where I am now), I felt like I had more to lose. Then I realized that I desperately need a new bathing suit, like, now, and I decided that, if I don’t go for the two piece this year, I probably never will. And that’s just ridiculous. I put so much into taking care of my body, both through exercise and diet. I’m proud of my hard work and dedication, and while there are obviously some things I would like to change, I’m happy with what I have.
I went to Victoria’s Secret today, and I tried on an absurd number of bathing suits. I put this one on, and instead of settling just for the sake of it, I realized that I actually liked what I saw. I tried it on again when I got home, and I liked it even more. I’m hoping that I like it enough to wear it out as much as my black one piece. Talk about a leap in the direction of finally accepting my body for what it is, not for what I wish it was.
TLDR version of this post: I bought my first bikini in seventeen years. Not a big deal for anyone else, but kind of a big step for me.
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?