Tag Archives: Exercise

Rebuilding Strength

I thought the time I took off to heal my shoulder, then the time I’ve cut back because of a medical issue, wouldn’t have any great effect upon my strength.  (silly me!).

I thought that when it felt like working hard, even though I had cut back on my weight, it was just me being careful.

The strength was still there waiting.  I just wasn’t using it.

Silly me.

I can’t take 6 weeks off from strength training and keep the same level of strength.  Nobody can.

It became apparent to me Wednesday when I was on the exercise ball doing reverse-crunch-to-pushups.  Before my shoulder started hurting, I would try 3 sets of 15.  The first 10 were easy and I had to work through the last 5 pushups (and not always succeed).  The third set was a little harder than the first.  However, I could do it.  This time, I struggled to do 8 reps, and struggled to do a second set at all.

That’s when it struck me: I’ve lost strength.  When it feels like hard work at weight levels that below what I was doing 6 weeks ago, IT’S BECAUSE IT’S HARD WORK.  I’m working near my potential at the moment.  (well, duh!)  When I said I’d take 6-8 weeks to build back to to where I was working before, it was because I’m going to need 6-8 weeks to rebuild the strength.

I’m slow like that sometimes.

I was working with trainer Adam a bit (he’s making sure I know how to use that monster robo-cable machine and do the exercises correctly.  Hello core-stability work).  He gave me some tips to help, like do push-ups supersetted with tricep pull-downs to shock the muscles and speed up the strength building.  He, too, reminded me that it’s going to take 6-8 weeks to recover.  Hmm.. looking at the calendar.. just in time for the New Year.



I must deny the rumor that today’s HIIT was achieved by alternating walking on the treadmill and actually running. We all know that I don’t run.  Especially in 1 minute spurts at 6 MPH.


Not me.

Must have been my doppelganger.

Same doppelganger was later seen doing 7 chin-ups, then kickin her own butt during her strength training workout setting two personal bests.

Meanwhile, I did my normal, ordinary nothing-to-see-here-just-move-along workout.


Finding the Rhythm Again

I’m working with a new trainer, Adam.  During our first workout he asked what I needed to work on.  I was honest: I need stability work that gets me a good full-body workout and works my core at the same time.  I hate doing ab work.  And I want to do an unassisted pull-up on 10/16.

Our workouts give me exactly what I asked for.  I wake up looking forward to them and never know what to expect from one day to the next.  Well, except that he is going to kick my triceps/shoulders/ chest and back.  Adam is, I think, now almost AS invested in this pull-up thing as I am.

We’ve become comfortably friendly which is nice.  It’s different than when I worked with Guido; but each relationship we develop with someone is different than any other.  I dearly loved Guido (heck, he’s listed as one of my emergency contacts if I were to be in an accident.), I genuinely LIKE Adam (heck, he told me about a .. well, that’s a topic for between friends…)

My workouts with Adam, though, always keep me guessing, and never (sadly) seem to spend much time in the free-weight section of the gym.  So the one or two workouts a week I do on my own need to address both my fondness for the free weights and leave me able to deal with whatever Adam throws my way.

I’ve decided to go fairly basic for a while.

I picked up Gunnar Peterson’s THE WORKOUT from the library on a whim.  (I was there picking up one of the latest Dresden File novels… because sci-fi and mysteries are my preferred reading materials.)  I like the Peterson book.  While he talks about the four main points of fitness: aerobic conditioning, nutrition, strength training, and rest, the majority of the book is dedicated to strength training.

He offers that a completely body workout can be achieved with 13 moves which offer  near infinite variety through simple change ups. The moves really are basic strength training moves like squat, press and pull-down.  The fun comes when he reminds (me) that these can become completely different moves by:

  • changing your position (standing, sitting, using a stability ball, etc.)
  • changing your “tool” (dumb bell, kettle bell, barbell, cable system, etc.)
  • changing your grip or stance.

By simply altering these three things, he offers 22 different ways to do a squat and 60 different ways to do a chest press.  Variety that can last a life time.  Another nice thing about the book?  All the models photographed doing the moves are women.  Women who look like fit but ordinary women.

Right now I’m not seeking a lifetime of variety (though it’s comforting to know it’s there).  In the past few months, I’ve had changes enough in the gym; I feel like I’ve lost my rhythm.  I’ve felt off-balance and outta kilter when I’m not working out with Adam, but a bit frustrated when I am.  Like I’m on spin cycle…

I’m looking for something simple that I don’t have to think hard about.  I just go in, check 1-13 and do them.  Do them the same each workout for a few weeks just to get in rhythm again.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Push. Pull.

One. Two.

One. Two. Three.

And once I’ve found my rhythm, I’ll be looking for that variety again.

Still Ill – NOT

I have been sick since I left BlogHer on July 19th.  I definitely got influenza which can kick your butt for a long, long time.  For me, it’s a kind of weakness and some nagging chest congestion that’s slowing me down.  A different medical problem this past week really had me knocked down (drug reactions?  NO FUN!)

I kind of fooled you all by finding draft posts that I thought I had published.  Made it look like I was feeling better and back to my old self. Well, it was my old self though I was not back.   Now I’ve run out of those posts.  (note to self: when healthy, rebuild that draft bank.) Oh, darn!  I have to start writing again.

I got to the gym (finally) for 3 days last week – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Then that remnant bit of the flu combined with nasty new drug side-effects had me knocked on my butt.  I could barely leave the house; I could not drive; there is no way I could go to the gym.


I missed my gym.  The stupid cardio, the boring floor exercises, the frustrating balance stuff, and delicious weights.  Missed it all!  It doesn’t matter that I was physically unable to be there; that I would be dangerous in there.

I missed my gym.

Things began to turn around Saturday evening.  I kept grabbing my small hand weights and playing around with them.  Not doing anything very serious, but working on concentrating on a muscle group and working it.  Feeling the squeeze.

Sunday I finally got back!

Since I still feel like I’m getting my fitness back, I took things fairly easy.  A simple 20 minutes of cardio at a fairly low pace.  A set for the hip flexors.  Chest press with easy 15# hand weights; bicep curls with a 20# bar.  Some sitting rows.  Squat sled – I hate thee, but I worked thee! – and leg press.  Just under an hour of work.

My mind cleared completely while I was in there working.  My mood improved… and there was peace, love and happiness everywhere around.

OK.  that might be going too far.

But I am back to my calm, easy-going mood.

So how was your weekend?

Review:The New Rules of Lifting for Women

A couple months ago, while browsing the shelves at my local library, I spied and checked out The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.  While I absorbed much of the information, finding it helpful for me in figuring out my daily workouts and nutrition, in starting to think about a workout template, I felt at the time that some of the exercises/moves/suggestions may need to be adjusted for women.

I LOVED that the book contained named templates and a series that guided a man through an entire year’s of workouts.  From initial skill-building (the break-in program)  through a fat-loss program and several strength building programs: endurance and muscle building.  Each program was NAMED giving me a clear way to understand why the changed in routines were put there, how each change should impact a workout, and what the goal of that month would be if I were using it.

I was thrilled to see that they were publishing a companion edition of the book that I hoped would fill my needs: The New Rules of Lifting for Women. With the original two authors, they added Cassandra Forsythe to reinforce any changes required between the men’s information/exercises and the women’s.

I LOVE how they have adapted the diet and exercise information for women to include our lower testosterone levels, and how female hormones may effect diet and exercise.   I re-read the section called “Core of Babylon.”  because I think it explains how some of my chronic ache and pains are related and gives a clue about how to reduce their impact their on my life.

I LIKE the photos and demonstrations of different exercises, especially some of the alternatives.

I HATE that the workouts for women are labeled Stage One, Stage Two, etc.  What the heck does Stage one mean?  And why couldn’t the authors simply have equated to the men’s “initial skill” level?  What am I concentrating on in Stage Two?  Is it stability, endurance?

Personally, this feels like a cop-out to me.  Like “women can’t deal” with workout named to conform with exercise regimes like NASMs OPT models. (which I simply chose because I could find it.)  Now I can carefully study the recommended exercises and sequences and likely figure out for myself what the authors were aiming for, but WHY SHOULD I??

With all the respectful, thorough and useful information in this book, why did the authors have to back away from naming their different stages by some kind of function?  I’d love to hear a reason that make me feel condenscended to.

Working Toward the Pull-Up

If you read through women’s fitness blogs, there are a whole bunch of us who have stated a goal of doing a pull-up.  Some have no time table, just the aim to do it.

Me?  I have a goal: to do an unassisted pull-up on 10/16/08.

To get me to this goal I am working on the following:

assisted pull-ups twice a week.  Decrease the assisted weight whenever I can do 3 sets of 8.  I’m down to 60 or 70#, so still a long way to go before I do that full-on unassissted one.  Once a month or so, I give it a go with the lowest weight on the graviton.  Still a fail, but someday…

Lat Pulls twice a week.  One time with consistent weight.  One time as a drop-weight activity.  Start at 70# until failure.  Rest 30 seconds, drop the weight to 60# and repeat.  Rest 30 seconds, drop the weight to 50# and repeat.  Continue down to 30#, where I’m usually doing 50 pulls, barely feeling the weight, but the muscles they are tired.

I screwed my right shoulder in ’93, with a serious case of Thoracic-outlet syndrome (think carpal tunnel in your rotator cuff), and I am an middle aged woman with some arthritis, so I don’t try to push the shoulder too much.  Those drop weights are a fabulous way to work the muscles without straining the connective tissue.

OK.  I get asked all the time: why 10/16?  What a strange date to pick for a goal.  Well, here’s the scoop:  October 16th is the anniversary date of my first workout.  On that day I did a 20 minute stability workout that left me completely drained (I could barely walk to out to my car), and sore for 2 days afterwards.  It is important to me to celebrate the change in me from then to now. To commemmorate the changes in me that has occurred from then to now.

Seems like a great way to do it.

When it comes to dieting, don’t go it alone.

Science Daily reported on a University of Missouri study comparing Weight Watchers to gym membership weight loss programs. While the WW participants lost about 5% body weight, this was mostly comprised of lean muscle mass. The gym participants, in contrast, did not lose much weight, but did lose significant amounts of intra-abdominal fat. While this makes the gym program sound more successful, they researchers also found that without support, the gym participants quit, while the support of meetings from WW kept it’s participants in the program.

“These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets,” Ball said. “Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months.”

“This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight.” Ball said. “I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs.”

I undertook my weight loss and fitness program on my own. Quickly, however, I accepted the partnership of working with my trainer as a key component in my success. If a multi-pronged approach is necessary, I’m wondering if the gym’s offering “weight loss” programs (hello 24-Hours Fitness’s Biggest Loser program!!) should try to build a social/team-building component into their gym offerings? It seemed to work for the tv show (where they have teams competing). Or suggest that people combine gym memberships with a social program like WW?

I’ll admit I found the food part of the weight-loss program at 24-Hour totally worthless; though I know other people benefitted by it.  They made me do a whole “I will eat these foods/ I will not eat these food” inventory, and asked a whole lot questions.  I told them I am allergic to cow’s milk. Their “food plans”?  Had milk at each of the 6 meals/day.  And a note: “You mentioned you had a food allergy.  Please make adjustments to this to accomodate your allergy.”

So after saying: I will not eat milk, cheese, cottage cheese.  I am allergic to milk, cheese, cottage cheese.  What did they do?  Told me to eat them and “make changes as I see fit.”  Great plan, guys!

It was also a plan that relied heavily on their own products (not that that’s a surprise) and convenience foods that I was eliminating (instant white rice?).  It did not emphasize clean, simple foods.  While this was probably because they were aiming their service at people for whom these were still going to be big changes, it was the most frustrating part of the program for me.

However, when I belonged to WW several years ago, I did not find that program any more helpful.

I’m just saying, that eating healthy has been a long, slow, painful journey for me.  I’m still not “perfect”, but I’m getting better.  And perfection is really a road to self-destruction, so I’m not taking that detour either.

So I appear to be among the lucky rarity: that person who joined a gym to lose weight and get fit, who kept it up and became a success.

Guess I can say it: Yay for me!