The One About My Weight Gain & the “Bulk” Fear of Women vs Weights

15 Fri, 2011 § 12 Comments

Do you have a number?  There is not necessarily a good reason it exists in your mind at all.  It is likely arbitrary, but there it is: the number you envision slim, attractive women weigh.  Or perhaps strong, masculine men, if you are a guy.

I have my own number.  Even now, though I rarely step on the scale & am not even worried about being at this number, it still floats around in my head.  Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever really been at this weight; at times I have been far too under it or uncomfortably over it.

I do not own a scale.  I stopped weighing myself in high school.  Actually, it was in jr. high I learned weight is relative, dependent on muscle gain & such.  I began to gauge my…body composition (though I didn’t know to call it that then)…by how my clothes fit.  Usually I only learn my weight when I visit the doctor’s office.

When I was in Albuquerque in February, I spotted a scale at the gym.  I was curious.  I stepped on.  Honestly, my first thought: “huh, must be muscle gain.”  I weighed a good ten pounds over “my number”.  I had gained a few pounds since my last weigh in.  I was ok with it.

I was feeling my best, my clothes still fit — if anything, they were looser — & I was maxing out on pull ups, chin ups, push ups, etc.  I knew I was strong.  Maybe the scale wasn’t showing my “ideal” weight or even my happiest weight.  This was a temporary price required as my body was subtly changing & becoming stronger.

That moment on the scale, there was no judgment & no criticism.  I was excited to see where my body was taking me; I was enjoying the ride.

[photo by David Finch]

Lifting weights makes women bulky.  At least that is what I hear over & over again.  Many women are terrified of weight training.  They all say the same thing: “my body is different; I bulk up.”  Maybe initially this is true, but even during my weight gain, I wasn’t actually bigger.  I’ll be honest: sometimes I feel like my arms are “bulky”; I want more “tone”.  Dave is often my grounding force to reason, almost rolling his eyes as he assures me they are not bulky.  Maybe as women, we have this I-look-like-a-dude panic whenever we build a little muscle.

If you have more body fat, you might experience initial bulk.  Usually women succumb to the panic & stop all strength training.  DON’T.

You have to push through…because it’s about to get so good.

When you gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate goes up; though by how much is debated [source].  Does it really matter?  Your body is getting stronger & healthier.  If your goal is to slim down, you’ll reach it more quickly by gaining muscle.  Now, my goal isn’t to lose weight but to change my body composition.  I am training to gain strength, & honestly, build lean muscle.  I always think “build lean muscle” sounds kind of weird.  What I’ve really done is build muscle — perhaps even a little “bulk” — & gain strength, then let me body find its balance through all of the other activities I love like climbing, cycling, swimming, interval training, etc.  I’m no expert, but this seems to be working for me.

Curious again, I stepped on the scale at our gym recently.  Without trying, I have lost 6 pounds since Albuquerque.  Because I have added more muscle, definition & strength since then, I know it’s the kind of loss I want.

I do not obsess over the number on the scale, but I don’t mind seeing it go down right now as long as I stay strong & energized.  If I weigh less while maintaining — no, increasing — strength (& stamina), my weight-to-strength ratio will be in my favor.  As a climber, pulling myself up the wall or boulder, this is optimal.

I am trying not to dwell on where I want to be but just embrace the process as it is happening.  I do this by climbing harder & tracking progress in the gym with a workout journal.  Like I said, I’m just enjoying the ride.  Of course I want to be stronger & use my passions to challenge myself & push farther, but I don’t let the little hater inside tell me I am not good enough yet.

I am.  You are too.

If you only take a few things away from here, I hope you’ll believe the following:

  • The ### on the scale is relative.  I weigh more than many of my friends who are similar in size.  Muscle does not weigh more than fat.  A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat; but a pound of muscle takes up less space.  I won’t be weighing myself regularly.  It works for some people, but I prefer to gauge my progress by how I feel, how my clothes fit & how I perform.
  • Girls have muscles too.  Some might not like the way this looks.  To each his/her own, but I don’t get it.  I love strong women — I love strong people.  Being able to do a pull up or even a push up is empowering.  I would rather be motivated by strong people than torture myself & get sucked into the realm of “thinspiration”.
  • Make it about more than the number.  I know I progress not because the number says so but by my performance.  Am I climbing harder?  Running farther?  Biking faster?  Squeezing out one more rep?  Adding another plate to the rack?  Find something you love, make your body good for something (not just pretty) & treat it like it is.

~

FEEDBACK!  I want to know what you think about women lifting weights, muscle gain & the scale.  As you can tell, I’m a little passionate about this — I know you are out there, so please share your insights!!!

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Splintless

8 Fri, 2011 § 2 Comments

I have been cringing at the weather warnings all week, so I did not want to bike to work yesterday.  I desperately needed a mid-day break though & wanted to try a yoga class that had come highly recommended.

Fortunately I brought my new (trail) running shoes & decided to run the 2.5-mile jaunt to FACW to the most intense Ashtanga flow class I have ever taken.  I liked it though!  So much so, I went again today for a mid-morning break with a co-worker.

I felt worked & got in a great sweat yesterday afternoon…but still had to run back to the studio.  Even though I still felt ok, I knew it wasn’t the smartest thing to run that many miles without building up to it first, so I did force myself to walk part of the way back.  I love these shoes by the way.  Should I tell you more about them?  Maybe I’ll work on a review over the weekend.

I gently stretched my calves repeatedly & even iced them for a few minutes after climbing last night for good measure.

Today: no shin splints. 🙂

Phew.

Did you catch we also bouldered last night?  I was so drained after my run & yoga, I thought I would just spot Dave.  My lunch bowl of quinoa, basil & toasted pine nuts was delicious but didn’t fill me at all.  After chomping down a Fruition bar, I had just enough of an energy burst to pull on a few of my projects.  What can I say?  I guess Spring has me revved up to be ACTIVE!

However, face-pelting hail & a cruel headwind during the bike ride in this morning de-revved me a bit.  Looks like this weekend will be all about gym workouts & Spring Cleaning!

~

Is the weather as fickle where you are as it is here?  What are your weekend plans?

Just Sweet Enough

14 Mon, 2011 § 8 Comments

Sugar is sneaky.

It appears sweet & harmless.  A little here; a little there…it won’t hurt.

If you know me at all by now, you know I am pretty strict about avoiding refined sugar.  Recently it has been creeping in though, initially in one of my favorite dark chocolate bars with sea salt [thank you, Dave for tempting me with a 12-pack – oh yeah, those babies are gone ;)].  Honestly, I do not fret this too much.  Dark chocolate is generally lower in sugar than many other sweets.  A small piece may even be good for those daily indulgences which I am a fan of, though I do prefer raw chocolate sweetened with agave – [but who wants to spend $6 for a chocolate bar every time?!].

My cravings have become a bit more of the addicted nature though – when you crave it first thing in the morning, it is likely due to a sugar crash – & I have found it more difficult than usual to turn down offered sweets.  I have even reached for Dave’s sour licorice straws, which are SWEET!  [Normally much sweeter than I can handle.]

Sugar makes me feel lousy, so I want to nip it in the bud before it really takes hold.  Rather than sticking myself in a NO SUGAR mindset, because restrictive mentalities have a tendency to harbor negative connotations, I have decided to focus on the positive.  I can indulge daily — the type of indulgences I enjoy & feel good about eating.  By allowing myself a modest, healthy & delicious indulgence every day, I do not feel restricted, can look forward to it & not feel the need to binge.

Saturday, I perused the aisles of New Frontiers looking for cookies, chocolate…something I would feel ok about putting in my body & still leave me satisfied.  Unless I wanted to splurge on my favorite raw cookies, nothing was fitting the bill that day.  I grabbed a few bulk ingredients [which saved us some spending $$] & opted to throw something together at home.

The beauty of this is I simply started throwing ingredients into the food processor while dinner cooked & adjusted it to suit my taste.  This is on the LIGHTER side of sweet, so feel free to add maple, agave – whatever sweetener you feel good about eating.

These tasty treats hit the spot for me.

Carrot Cake Crispies

  • 2 medjool dates, pits removed

Chop in food processor & add remaining ingredients.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
  • ample sprinkling of cinnamon
  • dash of ginger
  • dash of cardamom

Pulse to combine before adding final ingredients.

  • 2 T shredded coconut
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 T coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T tahini

Pulse until just combined.  Press into a parchment-lined dish & put in freezer until set, 10 minutes – 1 hour.  Remove from freezer & cut into 1-inch squares.  This made about 12 squares.  I like that they did not freeze solid — they were still soft with just enough crunch.  I think I will leave them in the fridge after they set up though to keep them on the softer side.

These little crispies are full of simple, clean ingredients — I was actually surprised they turned out so well — they are a perfect, light treat & would be amazing with a coconut icing.  Now that I know how simple [a.k.a. not scary] it is to toss this stuff in & process, I’m excited to explore other flavors & make crispies often.

~

What kind of sweet tooth do you have?  Do you like sweet sweet or just sweet enough?

Mid-Week Sweat

10 Thu, 2011 § 4 Comments

I asked Dave for workout suggestions before bed Tuesday night.  On the fly, he whipped out this quick workout that woke me up & got me going Wednesday. He is good like that — see how he spotted this rope swing to get in a quick pull up workout in Thailand? 😉

Back to AZ: the idea was to fit it in my early morning routine, hit various, specific muscle groups & prep my body for climbing after work.

 

6 sets of the following:

  • prisoner squats x 25
  • santana push ups ~ 20 seconds
  • dips ~ 20 seconds
  • hanging L/V “sit” ~ 10 seconds

This workout wasn’t brutal, but I was surprised how fatigued everything became only part way through — my poor triceps are weak!  Dave also “challenged” me to complete 200 more prisoner squats & 100 desk push ups throughout the workday.  Jeez, this guy.  😉  It felt good to keep moving throughout the day though & be warmed up for climbing.

I am sharing a few of my workouts lately just to show how easy it can be to fit in a workout, even if you only have a short amount of time.  Keep in mind though, short workouts need to be intense to be effective, so really give it your all.

I also wanted to tell you about my SIMPLE lunch that was SO DELICIOUS.

Dave was kind enough to make extra jasmine rice Tuesday evening for me to pack in my lunch.  I tossed in chickpeas, hemp seeds & toasted sunflower seeds; drizzled it with a little flaxseed oil & sprinkled a touch of sea salt.  It was amazing slightly chilled.  I will be making this again…soon.

~

What is your favorite type of workout?

30*F!!

4 Fri, 2011 § 2 Comments

8:00 a.m. & 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wahoo!

Never thought I would be excited about 30 degrees, but after -23* windchill this week, I am ecstatic.  We will be sitting poolside in no time. 😉

To celebrate this heatwave, I want to [re]share one of my favorite past photos from my walks with Eisley.

good morning sunshine

I miss you Spring.  As much as I am embracing the present, I long for your return.  Thank you for the teasers earlier this month.  Can we please have more of those 50*F days?  Pretty please??

I am embracing this beautiful day by taking a long lunch & going for a run or doing an interval workout — I think I spotted a park nearby.

I have not been as active as I feel good about this week; though I have fit in a couple morning workouts, walked to/from work/bus one day [BRRrr] & hit the climbing gym twice in the evening, it has just not been enough.  I will be making a game plan over the weekend & starting to take Eisley for a short run in the mornings again [more for her benefit than mine, but I definitely get something out of it too ;)].

~

Were you hit with snowmageddon?  We did not get snow — just the wind.  Are you still fighting the blizzard?  Are you finding ways to stay active amidst the cold freezing temperatures?

Start the Work-Week Right

23 Sun, 2011 § 7 Comments

You know I am crazy & will sometimes wake at 4:30 to get a workout in before catching the bus.  Some mornings this does not happen though, so I like to fit a lunch workout into my day.   I might go for a short run, hit the climbing gym for an hour, fit in a playground workout at the nearest park or just go for a walk — my deodorant has been keeping up too. 😉  Even if I do get in my 4:30am workout, I love breaking up my day with movement & fresh air during my lunch break…even if it just means walking around downtown.

During your lunch break or in between classes consider doing any of the following:

  • Go for a run
  • Find the nearest park or school & do a workout using the playground equipment.  Sometime I will do a full HIIT [high intensity interval training] workout; sometimes I just jog there & do sets of pull ups & hanging knees raises.
  • Walk around the block or window shop if you work near any quaint, local shops.
  • Is there is a gym nearby?  Drop in for a class you have never taken or lift weights.
  • Bike to/from work/school to relieve some of the stagnant feeling of sitting at a desk all day.
  • Balance your day out with a yoga class.  Check for lunch or specific weekday specials at a nearby studio.  There is a studio downtown offering $5 drop-in on Wednesdays I cannot wait to try this week.
  • Make a date with your camera.  It will get you moving a bit & switch up your mindset by stimulating those creative juices while you walk around.

[David Finch]

Whatever you do, love your body & love yourself by moving.

I promise it feels so much better than sitting in the break room.

~

How do you spend your lunch break?  Ever make it an “active” hour?

All Wrapped Up & Pumped Out

20 Thu, 2011 § 2 Comments

Loving your body means giving it what it wants.

Mine wants nutbutter any time it can get its hands on it.

I have decided I probably should not have a nutbutter sandwich all that often — or at least not every day — but last Wednesday, I really wanted one after two days in a row of indulgence.  I compromised & decided I could have a big dose of sunflower seed butter if I ate it with greens.  Collard leaves on the verge of wilting found their purpose.

Now know while I love slow-braised collard greens, I have never enjoyed them raw; I find them too bitter.  Something worked here though.  The sweetness of the bananas balanced the bitterness out, plus because I did not eat these wraps freshly made, they softened & reduced in bitterness as they soaked in all the flavors.  I love these — have even tried one with raisins but prefer banana — & they have replaced my need for nutty-buttery-sandwiches.

I even talked Dave into tasting a bite.

~

Dave: “While I was eating it, I really liked it; then I got the aftertaste which tasted like collard.

Which I don’t like.”

~

Aw well, almost had him.

[the stalks make good dog treats — crazy Eis loves ’em.]

Since loving my body is not about deprivation, giving it something that is like a treat — like nutbutter —  in moderation is a good thing.  Creating a nourishing snack for my body from that treat feels even better.  This was a great bouldering snack!

Speaking of climbing, remember our pull up commitment training?  It is still going strong. 🙂

We have had this Iron Gym doorway pull up bar for years & love it.  It is as versatile as the review claims, though I only use it for pull ups & occasionally push ups.  Dave found it for a good price at Big 5.

Another aspect of loving my body is challenging it; this is HUGE for me to maintain positive thoughts about my body.  Rather than avoiding difficult exercises, embrace the challenge & revel in how our bodies strengthen from them.  Pull ups are a perfect challenge.  I do not want to be the crazy pull up lady, so of course you do not have to choose pull ups.  I have realized a lot of women neglect upper body though, so again, pull ups are perfect. 😉  Plus, they are difficult — for women especially; so it feels that much better when you start to master them.  Even some of the strongest woman can only do 5 – 6 at a time.

Set a small goal to be able to do 1 – 2 within a couple weeks & build from there.  If you cannot do a single pull up yet, do not be discouraged.  If your bar is low enough, use your feet to push off the ground for a little boost.  You can also use a chair to create an assisted pull up; better yet, grab your yoga ball to really work your core stabilizers.  If you are doing assisted, just don’t hold back & make it about your lower body by using too much of your leg power.  Give it everything you have using your upper body before engaging your legs to push the rest of the way up.  Honestly, it has taken me a long time to really train my  body to do a good pull up; you have to really engage all the muscles through your back [not just your arms] & PULL.

We are off to the climbing gym for a quick, evening session — I scored a buy-one-get-one-free day pass!  We climbed during lunch; but that was short, & we need to get our money’s worth & earn that day pass!

Enjoy your evening!

~

How are you challenging your body?

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