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.