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!!!

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?

“W” is for Allie

24 Thu, 2011 § 6 Comments

When you question your decision to be there within the first 5 minutes, you know it is going to be a good spinning class.

Traci at FAC makes you hate your life; & it feels so good.

Spinning is about pushing yourself past what you think you are capable of doing.  A good spinning class should never let up, feel absolutely brutal…& have really good music.

Last night’s class was gooood.

Wednesday is “guys’ night”, so you can find Dave shooting bad guys online with one of his guy friends most of the evening.  Ladies’ night has become Allie’s night.  I might hit the climbing gym….or torture myself spinning…or drop in on $5-Wednesday yoga.  I can kick up my heels — I can paint the town red. 😉  I can do whatever I’d like.  Wednesdays are for Allie.

Then I can go home & cook…read…blog…write…or just play & cuddle with Eis.  I wish playing the piano was on this list.  It will be again.

Of course, Wednesdays should be for chocolate too.

I have mentioned my affinity for raw chocolate — dark chocolate in general actually.  Most chocolate still has sugar though, & raw is quite expensive.  I finally broke down & ordered cacao butter so I could make my own.  I found what I thought was a good deal for quality cacao from Green Planet Paradise & realized it shipped from Sedona, which is only about 40 miles from here.  Plus, they plant a tree for every pound of cacao you buy.  That’s two trees for me!

I used Kathryn Budig’s “recipe” video as a guideline, but left out cinnamon & espresso powder, tasting as I went.  The first round was too buttery, but I was not about to waste my cacao; so I remelted my pieces & added more cacao powder & agave.  This round: Mmm.

They are rich & quite decadent.  Next time I will make less, & I suggest using little molds instead of [silicone] muffin tins for more appropriately-portioned pieces.  A little of this chocolate goes a looong way!

I have heard equal ratios of fats, sugars & chocolate is key.  Without a kitchen scale, I can’t tell you if this is really the case.  It seems like this would be more sweetener than I used.  Once I narrow down the perfect homemade chocolate ratio, I’ll share!  For now, I will just have to practice. 😉  I know it’s not technically 100% raw, but I’m ok with this.

~

Do you ever take days that are just about you?  You really should.

We Enjoy the Silliness

23 Wed, 2011 § 6 Comments

Even with anticipated work stress, you know it’s going to be an ok day when by 8AM you have already cracked up – in a good way.

Dave & I played “Man vs Wild Snow & Traffic” on the bus yesterday.  Actually, Dave played, & I lost it.  I am fairly obsessed with Bear Grylls & “Man vs Wild”.  If you do not know what I am talking about, stop now & go enlighten yourself.  Bear Grills is a bad ass, intelligent – he even usually uses “literally” correctly – & he has an English accent.  😉  Enough said.

[source]

It all started because overnight, the snow & ice made the roads in Flagstaff quite “slippy” this morning.  [Bear always says slippy instead of slippery.]  From our seats on the bus, we watched cars slide off the road & instructed each other on “proper technique” for maintaining traction & traversing “slippy” slopes & cautioned how “a good friend, only a few years ago, had lost his footing on a slope much like this & slid all the way to the bottom.  He suffered numerous injuries & barely survived.”  Dave marveled over the “traditions of the locals” & the lengths people are willing to go to attach a pair of sticks to their feet to slide down a hill.  You have to do this all in an English accent or it’s not as funny.  😉  I know; we’re dorks.  I like it this way. I like that we can be silly.  Laughing is the only way to start your day.

Maybe you’re not as amused – though I can’t imagine why not – so here are some workout options I’ve done lately if you’d rather just sweat:

Playground Workout ~ HIIT ~ 4 minutes each exercise = 6 rounds each: 10 seconds rest; 30 seconds max effort

  • Ninja Jump Tucks
  • Chin Ups
  • Surfers
  • One-Arm Side Lying Tricep Press Ups

Balanced ~ full-bodied HIIT ~ 4 minutes each exercise = 6 rounds each: 10 seconds rest; 30 seconds max effort

  • Scorpion Flips 5 – 6 – 6 – 5 – 6 – 6
  • Skater Lunges (L, R) 13 – 14 – 15 – 15 – 15 – 15
  • Pull Ups (rounds 1, 2, 4, 5 pull ups; rounds 3, 6  chin ups) 9 – 7 – 7 – 6 – 9 – 7
  • Mountain Climbers 37 – 36 – 31 – 31 – 32 – 34

Breathing Ladders ~ Remember these?

  • 12# medicine ball swings 1:10:1 = 22:30 minutes

~

I tried to ride my morning high, but so many things wore me down yesterday.  By the time I got home, I did not want to turn my computer on, leave the house or do anything but sit with Dave & talk, play with Eisley & finally relax.

Just before 6:00 this morning, we saw a huge herd of elk right outside our gym though; so I am optimistic today will be a good day.

~

How silly can you be with your spouse/partner?

Hold & Explode!

19 Sat, 2011 § 4 Comments

“Get lower!”

“Explode!”

“Tight core!”

“Watch your form!”

“Good throw!”

“Keep moving — faster!”

Partner moves are great because you can push each other — plus you always want your part to be over.  This move was no different.  As the sets progressed, we did not want to hold the squat any longer than necessary; as our muscles fatigued, an explosive burpee became nearly impossible.

We liked this so much, we had to share it with you!  Even if other people have done this, I am giving Dave major credit for an awesome move.

~

Ball Throw Burpees

Allie: begin in squat with legs  at 90*, holding medicine ball in front of chest.

Dave: do a burpee, jumping/returning into a squat position:

[burpee: squat & bring hands to ground – jump feet back into a plank position – do a push up, exploding as you push up, popping into the squat position.]

Allie: throw the ball to Dave as he lands in the squat.

Dave: catch the ball

& stay in squat.

Allie: burpee,

[try to keep your head in line; my form is not great here]

jump back into squat position.

Dave: throw the ball.

Allie: catch the ball.

Continue alternating moves between partners for duration of time or reps.

Your quads will hate love you.

Thursday morning we met a couple people at the gym & did a group workout:

  • 4 rounds: 10 x ball throw burpees each person followed by 15 x these each side
  • 4 rounds of a partner switch up:  one person did 10 x 45* lean-back medicine ball throws while the other person did weighed quick steps as quickly as possible while holding a medicine ball in front of his/her chest
  • 3 rounds: triangle presses [side bend, works obliques] followed by pull ups [I did 5]
  • we finished up with another set of pull ups & Dave’s crazy “windshield wipers” — which is another exercise we should just show you

~

I hope it was worth the wait, because last night I did not feel like changing  into workout clothes & sweating to burpees, just  to get dressed again.

There was pizza waiting after all!

So we got up bright & early to show you our burpees before hitting the crag in Jack’s [a.k.a. rock climbing in Jack’s Canyon].

Hope you are enjoying an active weekend as well!

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