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!!!

Advertisements

Running in the Rain

8 Fri, 2011 § 6 Comments

If you have never run in the rain, you must — as soon as possible.

I was skeptical of Dave’s claim that few things live up to the joy of running in the rain — or even the mud — but it’s true.  I was wet; I didn’t care.  Raindrops misted my face; I wasn’t annoyed.  As my feet splashed the first shallow puddles, I was radiating.  Grey clouds cast shadows on the asphalt & grit; I felt empowered & liberated, ready to push out 8 insane intervals (I love intervals; I think they are fun but insane/hard): 30-second full on sprint + 1-minute moderate jog = 1 interval.  After my final interval, I was exhausted but not ready to leave the rain; so I sprinted one more minute, fighting to increase speed until the end.

Rain is Refreshing.

I felt empowered by the elements to make this run count, but you could always just go out, splash & have fun.  I still think you should push yourself harder than you think you are capable.  Consider it a dare.

~

I Want Pecs

3 Tue, 2011 § 3 Comments

A poster of this hangs in the weight room of our gym.

I sort of want it.

I have wanted to focus on working my chest specifically; & fortunately I have a husband willing to step in as my lifting partner a couple days a week & create really solid workouts for us.  The following are last week’s; if you like feeling worked through your pecs, you’ll enjoy these, especially #2, which was really felt the next day.

#1 Chest_Back (Monday)

Alternate between 1 & 2 each set; as well as 3 & 4 each set — so do 20 DB Press, then 20 Rows, short break, then 20 DB Press, 20 Rows, etc.  Adjust weight according to your own abilities.

  1. DB Press 20 @ 12# x 2, 12 @ 20#, 6 @ 30#
  2. Rows on machine 20 @ bar only x 2, 10 @ 20#, 6 @ 40#
  3. Decline Press 20 @ 35# x 2, 8 @ 55#, 6 @ 65#
  4. Reverse Flies 20 @ 7# each x 2, 8 @ 12#, 6 @ 15#
  5. Incline DB Press 20 @ 10# each, 8 @ 15# each, 6 @ 20# each
  6. Push ups to failure: 21

#2 Chest_Shoulders (Thursday)

  • 3 x super set: Push Ups x 10 @ BW & DB Butterflies x 10 @ 15# each
  • Butterflies (machine) x 8 @ 40#, x 10 @ 40#
  • 3 x super set: Assisted Pull Ups & Dips (40# on machine) 1) x 10 each exercise (rest) then x 8 each (rest) then x 8 each
  • Lying Overhead bars x 10 @ 25# x 2
  • Assisted Windshield Wipers x 8

~

Are you a woman who likes to work her chest or does it make you nervous?

Turkish Get Ups {Video}

29 Fri, 2011 § 5 Comments

(We’ve been having fun with Dave’s iPhone camera)

Dave recently introduced me to

the Turkish Get Up

with 25# bar

[I also practiced with the 45# bar, which required a bit of grunt — good grunt though.]

I like them!  Core intensive.  Full Body.  Static.

It’s all in form & how you hold your body & use your arm & knee to stabilize as you roll up to sitting, to kneeling, to standing, then reverse the movements.  You could also do these with a kettle bell, but then you lose some of the lateral stabilization the long bar offers.  Keep the bar high & your arm engaged.  *(update) Also, articulate through the spine as you lay back down, really engaging your deep core muscles.  I think about making each vertebrae, especially in my low back, touch the mat as I “roll” back down.

I am just trying to figure out how to work them into workouts.  Any suggestions?

Burpee to Pull Up [Video]

22 Fri, 2011 § 6 Comments

One of my new, favorite moves.

Though the jump gives you some help with the pull up, this is still exhausting.

I like my burpees to be more dynamic than this & have a little more “pop” from the push up into the squat.  I also want to work on jumping from the squat into the pull up more quickly, rather than pausing to establish my footing.  Dave recorded me doing 8 of these after my workout last Sunday, so I am going to blame the lack of “oomph” on fatigue. 😉

Every day we push ourselves we get stronger, right?!

I like to do 3 sets of 10, which is fatiguing.  Even more fatiguing is doing these as intervals like below.

Tuesday Morning HIIT

  • Burpee to Pull Up : 10 sec rest; 30 sec max – 6 rounds = 4 minutes
  • Hamstring Curls on yoga ball: 30 sec; 10 sec “rest” SWITCH TO Ball Pikes: 30 seconds – continue alternating 6 rounds = 3 xs each = 4 minutes
  • Side Lying One-Arm Tricep Press Ups: 20 sec alternating each arm, no rests – 6 rounds = 6 xs each side = 4 minutes
  • Hanging Knee Raises: 20 sec then Mt Climbers: 20 sec (no rests) – 6 rounds = 6 xs each = 4 minutes.

Braised Collards with Currants, Chickpeas & Cashew Cheese

18 Mon, 2011 § 3 Comments

Meet one of the random dishes that triggers a good amount of teasing.

Did I mention it is breakfast?

Dave — & most people — find it bizarre I can eat greens in the morning.

I feel completely nourished & balanced when I start the day with something like this though.

Immediately after a good swim & moderate bike ride, I had a recovery drink of coconut water, maca, blue berries, half a banana, a tablespoon of hemp protein, ground flax & carob powder.  About an hour later, braised collard greens tasted perfect.

Cashew cheese complemented the collards & is a quick & simple condiment to make.  I have found the ratio I like for a small batch using 1/4 C raw cashews : 2 T nutritional yeast : 1/2 T flax oil.  I use the “chopping” attachment of my magic bullet to first grind the cashews to powder, then add the nutritional yeast & process to mix.  Add the oil & combine till slightly moist & crumbly.  This lasts 2 – 3 servings for me.  You can make a larger batch:  simply use half the amount of nutritional yeast as cashews & a quarter the amount of oil compared to the nutritional yeast.  I am going to try it using sunflower seeds next time.

~

Prepare the collard greens by slicing the leaves from the stems; discard stems (or give to your dog to munch on).  Roll each leave in on itself & slice thinly into ribbons.  Heat a small amount of coconut oil in a medium pan on medium to medium-high heat; add the collard ribbons & toss using tongs.  Cook until the leaves are lightly braised (seared), tossing occasionally.  Splash with balsamic vinegar & toss again.  Cover & reduce heat to low.  Cook until leaves wilt; add currants & chickpeas.  Cover & continue to cook, tossing so it wilts & braises evenly, until collards are soft.  Serve in a wide bowl & top with hemp seeds & cashew cheese.  A mochi waffle on the side provided a nice, contrasting crunch.

I felt fueled for our day of climbing — our first trip to the Pit!

~

Do you ever like greens in the morning?

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?

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Exercise/Move category at ARoadMoreBalanced.