Weekly update

I’m declaring myself back in the game, tentatively. Here are the things I have going for me:

  1. The physical therapy seems to be working – slowly, but maybe
  2. Even if it isn’t, I want to gently get back into weight lifting while I am still attending PT so that if it does aggravate my neck, I can get guidance
  3. I am really loving the pool
  4. The Akron Marathon Relay is at the end of this month – motivation to get back into things
  5. an upcoming trip in October being more motivation to knock off a little of this fat.

This week was another slow one, but it sets me up nicely for next week. Tuesday I did just my PT. Friday morning I got up and ran 5 miles easy, followed by PT. Sunday (today) I ran 3 miles of negative splits, then did the leg press and a set of kettlebell swings, then swam for 25 minutes. It felt great and I don’t think it aggravated my shoulders too much.

This week I’m hoping to work out Tues and Wed – one day I’ll do a longer run (4-5 miles) and the other i’ll do a 30-min swim followed by some light weight lifting. Friday I’ll do a long run and Sunday I’ll do what I did today. That’s the plan, anyway; cross your fingers that I have no other setbacks.

7 Basic Things To Know If You’re Going To Start Weight Lifting

  1. Come to terms with ignoring the scale. Weight lifting isn’t going to make you lose pounds. Muscle weighs more than fat, and since the point of lifting strong is to gain muscle, chances are you’re actually going to go up a few pounds on the scale. However, it will make you look better: pounds of muscle will look thinner / slimmer / trimmer than pounds of fat, so it may look like you’re “losing weight” when you aren’t. Remember: the number on the scale is meaningless. Use measurements in inches (gained/lost), or use your overall health, or what you can lift: don’t use the scale as a success metric.
  2. In general, clean up your diet. If you’re going to be lifting weights to build muscle, you have to fuel that muscle, and you need to fuel it right. You shouldn’t be in a huge calorie deficit – make sure you’re eating what your body needs every day. Calculate your BMR and your exercise expenditure and make sure you’re eating enough. And if you feed your body crap, you’ll get crap: focus on cleaning up that diet too. Lean proteins, vegetables and fruit, complex carbs: don’t lift weights and eat trash; don’t just eat more, eat better. If you don’t eat enough, or you don’t eat right, you’ll be wasting your time with a weightlifting regimen. You don’t have to count every calorie; you do have to pay a little more attention.
  3. In specific, eat more protein. If you’re going to be lifting, you need to feed the muscle itself, specifically, by eating protein. If your muscles don’t have the protein they need, they won’t grow, and then what’s the point? Some guidelines say eat 1 g protein per lb body weight daily. Others target overall food macronutrient consumption: 40/40/20 protein/carbs/fat. The basic rule is, if you’re gonna lift, get your body more protein or – again – you’re wasting your time.
  4. Lift heavy (if you can); Push hard. In general, lifting heavy weights for fewer reps is more efficient than lifting light weights for many reps. You’ll build more muscle faster with less time at the gym. Be aware of the possibility for injuries, and know your body’s limitations, and work with them. But in general, aim to do fewer reps at a higher weight. You don’t necessarily have to work to ‘failure’ every single time, but pushing through a set with heavy weights until you legitimately don’t feel like you can push any harder means you’ve actually done something. And lift heavier, push harder, the next time you’re in the gym.
  5. Do compound lifts with free weights. The machines may look less intimidating, and doing weight machines is better than doing no weight-bearing work at all, but the machines are actually less efficient. They isolate muscles (rather than using multiple muscle groups and getting a full-body workout), and they stabilize you by having you sit or lie down (again, using less overall muscle, balance, and core strength). Learn to do compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses. Learn to do them with free weights: barbells, dumbbells, a squat rack.
  6. Remember your rest days. When weightlifting, when you push hard through a heavy set, you’re actually microtearing your muscles; it’s in healing these microtears that you’ll actually grow muscle and build strength. This is what the protein’s for, but the muscles can’t build themselves back up if you don’t give them a rest day. Make sure you aren’t overworking. That healing period of rest in between workouts is when your body is actually growing stronger!
  7. Be as consistent as you can. Lifting weights once a week every once in a while will still be good for you, but you may not see any significant gains. Try to stick to a schedule of 2-3 times per week, and try to stick to that for a period of 6-8 weeks at minimum. This kind of change can be slow, and it depends on what kind of fitness you’re coming from. Don’t give up if you don’t see any changes within a week, and don’t quit if you have a bad week or miss one workout. At the same time, don’t skip your workouts and wonder why nothing’s changing! Stick with it.

Chiropractor

I had my first real visit to a chiropractor yesterday. It turns out that what I have in my neck and shoulders that’s making it lock up with intense stabbing pain is an inflamed pinched nerve; it becomes aggravated due to misalignments in my spine, and it becomes inflamed, and then gets pinched between bones or ligaments or tendons or whatever is hurting that day. At least I’ve had it explained to me. Still don’t know what sets it off – my guess is stress – but I know what it is.

My feelings on the chiropractor are mixed. Of course I’m simultaneously trusting and leery of doctors – especially ones trying to sell me a treatment program upwards of $3K – and I won’t know for a few days whether this has helped or hurt. He cracked my neck and upper back – or, sorry, ‘realigned’ (dude, it felt like cracking, I can do that for free, yo). Then I got a short massage from the therapeutic masseuse and a short massage from electronic stil pads which was really cool. It felt different afterwards – I’m hoping “different” will mean “better,” since “similar” has meant “painful” for the last four weeks.

I’ll see in a couple days whether it’s improving or not. I’m not unwilling to go if it’s helpful; I’m just leery of treatments I have no experience with.

I know this has been more or less a workout blog so far, but I want to point out two things. Health is more than working out; it’s a whole-body situation, more than what you do in the gym and what you eat. And many people out there have injuries and disabilities; I want to share mine, to let people know that even if you have limitations, you can still have strengths.

Let’s Talk About Things That Aren’t Running: NROL4W and BodyRock

I’ve been doing a lot of posts on running lately, but running isn’t all that I do – and if you want to be efficiently healthy, honestly, running isn’t necessarily your best choice. So I want to launch a second series of LTA posts, this time addressing stuff that isn’t running. It’s more related to weight training, cross training, and an intersection of the two.

This is just an introductory post and only involves these two programs that, right now, I’m making a part of my routine – I have many more thoughts on these kind of things and how they relate to efficiently honing your workouts, which will be coming soon.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROL4W)

NFOL4W is a lifting program. It’s more than a program, I guess – it’s an entire book. The book itself is dedicated to a much bigger-lifestyle-type program that hits every area from diet to mindset to weight room. If you’re new to the fields of health, weight training, weight loss exercise programs, “dieting” and the like, it may be worth picking up. However, if you’ve done a little research on these kinds of things (or if you’re here), I can kind of sum up about half the chapters for you.

  • Eat more good stuff, eat even more protein, and eat less junk.
  • Lift heavy weights with your whole body.

The book’s main selling point is to convince women to lift heavy. There are some companion “unisex” programs, but since for whatever reason many women are still terrified by weights, by “bulking up”, by dumbbells, this book was designed specifically to sell women on heavy weightlifting. I do have to say that it’s interesting from a feminist perspective to be told “YOU can totes lift like a dude!! It will make you HOTTTT” — you think, do I like this message? or do I want to punch this author in the face? But this is about the program, not the book.

The program itself focuses on compound lifts. The beginning routines are built around squats and deadlifts – two of the most important and most effective compound lifts out there – and add in other things like lunges, shoulder press, pushups, ab work, seated row: stuff that generally hits more muscle groups. The program’s theory is that by building muscle (which involves the important steps of weight lifting and eating more, high quality food) we can design our bodies to burn more fat (since muscle burns more efficiently) which, generally, improves the look of one’s bod.

As a very brief summary, the program’s advantages are:

  • A good target: building muscle is in fact a good, efficient, effective way to eliminate fat and “look better”
  • A good plan: compound lifts are a great, effective, efficient way to build said muscle and get stronger
  • Focus on nutrition: many times when people are working out, if they don’t clean up their diet, they won’t see results as clearly – aka wasting time, aka inefficiency. This program emphasized a clean(er) diet and increased protein intake

and the disadvantages are:

  • The program requires equipment: namely access to a weight room. The compound lifts use dumbbells, barbells, a squat rack — you not only need access, but the knowledge on how to use it without hurting yourself.
  • The program does provide directions for the lifts, but it isn’t a trainer, so there is the chance for injury. Good form is required and must be learned to progress.
  • Weight training programs – although they can be more effective in the long run depending on your goals – may not provide results quickly initially, which can make them hard to stick with.
  • The general lack of cardio in the program – cardio burns calories, which is somewhat detrimental when you’re trying to build muscle – means runners can’t train for races, for example.

Overall, I do like NROL4W. I do find that as a runner and as a chronically injured person, I can’t stick to it as well as I’d like. But I think the program is sound, and I think if nothing else, it’s good knowledge to have in the bank.

BodyRock

BodyRock is a website which supplies a series of high intensity interval-style mainly bodyweight type workouts. That’s a lot to take in, so let me split it out: each workout provides you with a set of exercises. The exercises are usually based on bodyweight – using little to no equipment, and even when there’s equipment involved, there are almost always modifications one can make at home – and are usually very high intensity, meaning they’ll get your heart rate up quick. Exercises are done in intervals of 50/10, meaning perform the exercise for 50 seconds and then rest for 10. Usually exercises are presented in sets of 4 done 3x or sets of 6 done 2x, so each BodyRock workout is 12 minutes long. (of course, some are longer, some are shorter – the program has lots of options.)

The website has resources for diet and nutrition, but I haven’t explored those yet – I’ve done enough research thanks – so I can’t really speak to that side.

Because most workouts are only 12 minutes, BodyRock is built on a slogan of “no excuses” — everyone has 12 minutes in their day they could use to get their heart rate up and smoke some calories. The workouts aren’t a joke, either – the combinations of moves is quite challenging, and if there’s a move you’ve done for a while, there are modifications shown so that you can keep challenging yourself. I wear my heart rate monitor while I do these, and I find that in those 12 min I burn between 120-160 calories. For a day I would have otherwise done nothing, that’s a good addition.

In brief, the advantages are:

  • Accessibility: not only are workouts short, but there are almost always modifications for people who don’t have equipment — or people who might have injuries. And the program is available online for free.
  • A good concept: combining high intensity intervals with bodyweight work is an efficient way to burn some calories and improve cardiovascular health while also strengthening the body. You get dual benefits.
  • Good execution: the bodyweight exercises focus on full-body moves and will help balance, flexibility, and core strength as well as overall health/strength.
  • Variety: workouts are different every day and there are tons on the website, some with different themes (yoga, strength, weight training, etc).

And the disadvantages:

  • 12 minutes at a time may not be enough to see drastic results or changes, unless you also clean up your diet and maybe add other workouts.
  • With only 12 minutes, you are neither building large amounts of cardio endurance nor building significant muscle (like you would running or lifting heavy). Since you’re getting a small amount of both, you’re getting significant gains in neither.
  • Form is important, and if you don’t commit to the exercises and to making them hard, you won’t see results. It’s easy to cheat.

Overall, I love BodyRock, but that’s because it has filled a distinct hole I had in my workout regimen. I’ve always loved yoga and many of the exercises seem rooted in yoga poses (to me at least) so I feel like the overall full-body workout is more useful than “bicep curlzzzz again”. Personally I use BodyRock as part of an overall workout plan. I’m not sure using it by itself would produce the kinds of results I want.

And there’s an overview. I have plenty more to talk about, but if you have questions or anything specific to ask, please let me know.