Progress Report

I’m just completing week five of Jim Stoppani’s 12 week plan.  So far, so good.  I have a few thoughts regarding my experience so far.

I don’t know if anyone else would notice changes in my physique but I see subtle changes that I’m pleased with.  I can’t say that I’m aware of a lot more muscle mass accruing but I’m most definitely seeing a tightening in my physique and a rounding of my muscle.  In other words, I’m less stringy which is a step in the right direction.  

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The diet portion of the program is easy to follow.  I get plentiful food and eat many times a day so I typically don’t get hungry.  On the couple of occasions when I want to eat between meals (always after leg day), I eat a few nuts and that tides me over.  The nutritional plan is built around a man weighing approximately 200lbs so I just cut the portions in half and that has proven to be a good way to handle the caloric intake for a person my size.  This plan does not include room for “cheat meals” so I’ve added space for them on my own.  Those meals usually fall on the weekend when my youngest requests pizza for dinner.  I don’t deny myself a few slices.  If I were planning to compete at the end of the 12 weeks, I’d forgo the cheat meals but that’s not on the docket so I think having one or two off-plan meals a week is just fine.

One challenge I’ve run into is that I don’t have heavy enough dumbbells at home  to increase the weight on certain exercises.  I’m currently doing 50lb one armed dumbbell rows and that represents the heaviest dumbbell I have.  I’ve done rows with 60lbs in the past so I know I’ll max out my weight next week which is way before I max out my body.  I’m currently seeking a solution to this problem.  I don’t really want to buy heavier dumbbells unless I find some cheap ones on Craig’s list.  I might have to make a stop at the gym just for that particular exercise.

I’ve subbed out a couple of the recommended exercises to make things easier.  The lying triceps extensions posed problems for me.  The dumbbells I have are large at each end and managing that exercise without hitting myself in the face or popping my earring out (yes, that happened) while maintaining proper form wasn’t working.  I simply switched to another tricep exercise for that rotation.  The incline bench press was a problem too because of the way my bench and bar are oriented.  They’re welded together so I can’t scoot the bench farther under the bar which I needed in order to get the weight off the rests and into position.  The rests are too far behind my head to get the weight up safely so I substituted dumbbell presses.  

I’m enjoying this program.  It’s a relief to let someone else to design and plan my workouts for a while.  I’ve been creating my own for many years so this is refreshing.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with my physique over the next few weeks.

Never Too Late

I follow a lot of other blogs and Lifting My Spirits is one of my favorites.  The author has a wonderful story.  She’s living proof that it’s never too late to change your physique for the better.  She absolutely explodes the myth that once you’re past 40 or 50 years old you just have to resign yourself to falling apart physically.  I’m about to turn 53 and I just love seeing how she transformed herself.  I want to give her a standing ovation! This reflects a bit of the journey she undertook to make herself stronger and to sculpt her body into a form that she found pleasing.

Transforming Into An Athlete In The Second Half Of Life

 

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The first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  I’m now 54.

Some people say my age is an irrelevant point about me as an athlete, but they are wrong.  It’s extremely relevant.   I was a fully formed adult with scars and strengths from living life before I decided to live a completely different way.  And my decision impacted a lot of people who thought they knew who I was before I decided to be someone else.  I’m still working on making sense of all this.  Something yanked my chain this last week and I need to write to figure out what I think about things.  Sorry – I need to be a bit cryptic about it because it’s private.  But I believe humans have similar responses to things, even if details are different.

Please forgive me for veering into the past for a moment.   If what I’m going to say later is going to make any sense, I need share parts of my personal history.  I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I don’t want to give the impression that I think my life has been difficult.  It’s just been a “life”.  But these things are a bit relevant to why I think what I think as I keep transforming into an athlete in the second half of my life…

  • My scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school and I was pulled from all sports. I was told to be “careful” for the rest of my life.  Between the ages of 17 and 24, I had at least two episodes when my back would freeze up and I could not move for about a week.  I remember my mother pushing me around in a wheel-chair at the hospital to get x-rays.   I believed all the adults who told me I was fragile.
  • In my 20’s, I got a job at a gym as a receptionist. That’s when I first saw female bodybuilders in magazines.  They were about my age, but they looked so strong – not fragile.  I wanted that, but I was intimidated by it for a couple of really good reasons.  1) I have scoliosis and shouldn’t lift, and 2) women aren’t supposed to look like that – guys didn’t like it.  I didn’t question those beliefs at the time.  I accepted them and set other goals for my life.
  • My mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 and I was 28.  I was the family member who was tasked with the decision to remove her from life support.  I watched her die.  I know some of you have had to do that, too.  It’s not exactly like how they show it in movies or on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • I decided to get a degree in mathematics and teach math because I was intimidated by it. That was when I began to do battle with my fears.  The time span from my first day of college to my graduation with a degree in mathematics was 16 years.  Mom died during this time and I lost my job because I needed to take a leave of absence to handle my mother’s affairs out of town.  Once I could get back to work, I had as many as three part-time jobs to support myself and still have a schedule flexible enough to attend school during the day when the classes I needed were offered.  This was the first time I set a scary goal and achieved it.
  • For the last 20 years, I’ve taught math to teenagers, ages 15-18. Takes a little courage to show up and do that every day.   Not many adults would want to attempt to manage a room of 30+ teenagers.  Fewer can handle it when a whole bunch of them are anxious about what you are asking them to do.  Math teachers are in short-supply these days.  Burn out is high.  Many students believe they will fail before they try, so they won’t try.  They will do a lot of other things to avoid trying.  While teaching geometry, I teach a lot of other things, too.

And that brings me back to my first point – the first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  All of these other things happened years prior to that.

To decide to become a female bodybuilder at that point in my life, I had to challenge and beat down a lot of my own thoughts about what women can do, what a person with scoliosis can do, what a busy teacher can find time to do, and what a post-menopausal woman can accomplish in bodybuilding.  I’m not saying my journey has been harder than someone else’s, because I know it hasn’t been.  There is no comparison to what others have had to deal with to just get through another day.  I have not had to survive trauma.

That said, I’ve still accomplished enough hard stuff to feel like I can do more.  It’s my journey.   I’ve already lived a life and I’m still in the mix.  My ego tells me that I should be respected for that, but I can’t control what others say or think.  (Yeah, something happened a couple days ago. I was hurt by it, but I learned something useful.)  I remind myself what I’ve done to get here.  My ego wants to puff up – that’s what others do, right?  But that’s not going to help me do anything except become an asshole.  I don’t need to defend my thoughts.

I am sensitive.  I am scared.  I am brave.  I reflect.  I learn. I overthink.  I lose my focus sometimes, but I get it back.  I tell my ego to shut the hell up.  She just wants to generate negative thoughts that feed uncertainty about whether I will ever have tangible success as an athlete.  I may always be a novelty act in public, she tells me.  Ageism is alive and well, we all know that.  Is that my only obstacle?  Of course not.  But it’s there.  I can’t get younger, but I can improve.  I may always be switched to the outside of the youngest, most novice bodybuilder in the line.  If I’m a better bodybuilder than I was the last time I showed up, I guess that’s going to be enough.  My voice may shake when I say “my journey on my terms“, but I’m still saying it.  I’m still insisting on it.

“Why bother?”  I ask myself almost every day.  Almost every day, I quit.  And then I recommit to what I’m doing as an athlete.  The last year has been difficult.  I may not be able to break this cycle until after I compete again.  That last competition experience needs to be replaced by a new one before I’m going to get closure on what happened that day.  Simply getting on stage again will be a win because I will be able to put away two years of trying to make sense of what will now be called the “2015 WTF Happened? Blesson”.

And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity.  I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym.  Lifting still fixes me.  I love to train.  That’s why I bother.   Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal.

Before

I’ve completed week 1 of my new plan by Jim Stoppani.  I’m feeling happy and energized.  At the end of the week, I was quite sore.  I see that as a good thing since it means I’m taxing my body differently than I was before I started the program.  They say “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  Apparently, I had a lot of weakness that needed to be shown the door.  That’s perfectly fine by me!

I thought I’d take a “before” photo so I could do a side-by-side comparison after week 12.  That way I’ll be able to see how it’s going.

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This is where I’m starting. I’m hoping for more muscle and more definition…and more time in the day. Can Jim Stoppani make more time in my day? Nah…but while I’m hoping I might as well add that to the list!

New Plan For The Fall

It’s time for something new!  I’ve been coming up with my own workout programs for 25 years and even though I was tweaking them and rearranging them regularly, the ideas in my head were just feeling stale.  I decided to let someone else do the planning for a change.  I went to Bodybuilding.com and found a free 12 week workout plan that seemed fresh and interesting.  Yesterday, I started Jim Stoppani’s 12 week Shortcut to Size.  Yes, of course, I’m looking for more mass as always.  My body defaults to scrawny very quickly if I’m not careful.  This program relies on periodization.  In this case, it means alternating in micro-cycles between high reps (doing a rest-pause on the last set of each exercise), using lighter weight and low reps (doing drop sets on the last set of each exercise) using heavy weight.

It’s actually refreshing to have a prescribed program like this.  I’ll have to personalize it a little to make it effective.  I often workout at home these days and I don’t have access to a seated calf raise machine, for instance. That’s O.K.  I can figure out the few little kinks while still relying on the program overall.

This program comes with a nutritional guide which I will also customize to fit my tastes.  There are sound, scientific reasons for the amount of sugar (particularly after the workout) he recommends but I don’t like to spike my blood sugar.  I’ll pass on the after workout big blast and cut down on the rest of the sugar a bit too.  Since the program is designed for people between 160lbs and 200lbs I’ll adjust my food intake to reflect my much lower weight.  I’ll just cut the portions in half (or just above half) for now and see how that works.  I’m also not big on supplements.  I’ll take the multi-vitamin and the protein powder but leave the rest of the suggested supps alone.  In this plan, there are no cheat days/meals and as you know, that isn’t the Lynnie plan.  I’ll stick to the guide carefully during the week then allow room for some deviation on the weekends.  I actually like the food he recommends and it’s not far off from what I eat anyway so I don’t expect this part to pose any challenges.

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This is what I look like now. Note the muscle loss. Yuck. Oh well, no use complaining. Better get to work! In 12 weeks, we’ll see what I look like.

Since I started today, the end date of the 12 weeks will be close to my birthday.  I always take a birthday photo to document my physique from year to year so we’ll all see if the program produces results.  If I look like a doughy, skinny wreck I’ll put the workout in the circular file and re-tool.  Hopefully, I’ll be pleased with the results!  At the very least, it’s a new adventure in my routine.

This was what I did today (day two of the program)

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Open Letter To Colin Kaepernick

Dear Colin,

Thank you for sharing your opinion of America with me and the rest of your countrymen. 

You decided not to stand during the National Anthem, because as you said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”

Since you were kind enough to present your opinion to me, I will return the favor.

Colin, your statements make it crystal clear that you do not like America.  However, America is not just a land mass, it’s a culture comprised of people; individuals like me, the people who raised you, your friends, your teammates, the coaches and teachers you had growing up who encouraged you and cheered you on, the policemen who protect you at football venues, your adult fans, countless little kids who buy your jerseys and eagerly turn on the TV to catch your games and members of the military who give of themselves daily so you’re free to make millions throwing a ball around.  Are we all oppressors?  Are none of us worthy of your esteem?

I have news for you Colin, America is our country and that’s our flag.

You are welcome to sit on your backside when our anthem is played.  It’s disrespectful, as you know, and you’re obviously taking great pleasure in wallowing in it.  You’re showing unbridled contempt for every good person of any and all backgrounds who has offered you kindness, help, support or love.  

Americans are a mixed bag; We’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic and combinations of all kinds.  The best of us have worked very hard to bridge divides, to be fair and inclusive.  We follow the Golden Rule every single day and people like you make our work much more difficult.   All the effort that’s been expended to strengthen our relationships, to strengthen our communities, to strengthen our country, everything we’ve successfully built is what you’re now willfully crushing under your feet.  You’ve positioned yourself as a filthy divider, instead of using your platform to reach out and make America even better.  

I have news for you.  We all have our personal hurts.  Instead of throwing a fit like a toddler, the mature among us carefully wrap those hurts up and lay them aside as best we can so that we don’t become poison pills and end up harming our cause.   We steadfastly resist becoming bitter and divisive.  We refuse to join in the rock throwing and destructiveness we claim to despise.

Perhaps you’ll grow up one day, begin to conduct yourself in a dignified manner and decide to join hands with fellow Americans who have labored for generations to make this country, not perfect, but certainly worthy of appreciation and celebration.

I wish that for you.  I sincerely do…and should that time come, the rest of us will gracefully accept your apology.

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My son’s 7th grade football team, yesterday, during the National Anthem (he’s the one at the far end. There are black, white, Hispanic, Pacific Islanders and kids with mixed racial/ethnic backgrounds on the team. That’s what this country represents. We all live, work, play and strive under one flag…the American flag!

The Olympic Games

I thought I’d share a photo I ran across yesterday that made me smile.  I don’t know who to credit it to, but it’s a fantastic shot.

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I think I found this photo so pleasing because it combines more than one thing I love and appreciate.  It’s a great melding of of themes…love of country, pride in a job well done, the joy of high calibre competition and a celebration of the pinnacle of physical accomplishment.

I’ve had the chance to sit down and catch a few of the Olympic events which I enjoyed watching immensely.  It doesn’t matter what sport, I find them all entertaining and compelling at the Olympic level.   I’ve watched bits and pieces of track and field events, water polo, equestrian events, volleyball, rowing (my shoulders burned just watching those guys work), wrestling, soccer, open ocean swimming and gymnastics.

Soon, the games will be over but I’m delighted that I got a chance to see the fruits of all the hard work, athletes the world over, put into their respective sports.  I find it energizing and inspiring!

Mmmm…Delicious?!?

Everyone knows I have a love affair with chips.  I love all kinds….tortilla, pita, corn, and especially potato.  When I’m hot and heavy into a clean eating phase but decide to deviate a little for a treat, I’ll always pick chips to satisfy my cravings.  At this moment, I’m maintaining a reasonably healthy diet but I give myself more leeway than I do when I’m earnestly trying to de-fluff.  Therefore, I have a few chips almost every day.

Not too long ago, I was in the store and a new flavor of chip caught my eye.

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After thinking it over while looking at the photo on the package  I came to the conclusion that if you just try hard enough you can ruin the most wonderful, delightful things in life,  including potato chips.

Last week I saw Peaches and Cream flavored chips. I started to wonder what other oddball chip flavors were out there on the market.

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Goat cheese and pepper?  Well, maybe that’s not too bad.  How about this one?

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Yorkshire Pudding and English Roast Beef chips?  Somehow, I’m not anxious to taste them…or these…

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What, exactly, does mischief taste like?  Maybe you don’t think those flavors are so bad.  Fine, how about these?

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The last three were just jokes but I couldn’t resist.  I don’t think they’re that far off from the real flavors they’re producing right now.

I was thinking, if these were the only chips available, my biggest nutritional vice would disappear in the blink of an eye!

The Size Of The Fight…

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We’ve all heard this expression before. It came to mind when I was looking at a particular photo I took during my son’s last lacrosse season.  It’s a photo of my son and his teammate, who happens to be one of the best offensive players I’ve had the pleasure of watching play.  He also happens to be very small in comparison to many of the other players on the field, particularly some of the guys on defense.  

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Rainy day…My son and Little Joe waiting for the game to start.

The size difference doesn’t matter one whit to Little Joe.  He plays the game with great gusto.  He’s fast and light on his feet…and he takes on much bigger players without a second thought.  He feints right, then goes left, he stops and changes directions on a dime, he’s got a whole repertoire of fancy footwork to rely on…

…but he’ll go head to head in a New York minute.  Little Joe has NO fear in him.  He attacks relentlessly and consequently enjoys great success on the field.  Now and then he winds up on his backside but he hops back up, eager to get right in there again.  That’s what makes him such a great competitor and teammate.  His unbridled love for the game and enormous enthusiasm more than make up for what he lacks in size.  He’s a beast on the field and those who underestimate him quickly learn the error of their ways.

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Little Joe usually wins when he goes head-to-head with the defense.

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Incoming!

Little Joe looks forward to challenges and he carries himself with confidence.  He’s an excellent example of how to tackle our own challenges whether at work or in the gym.  It doesn’t matter if we have some sort of disadvantage, we have to face our opposition (the miserable to deal with co-worker,that loaded bar or someone willfully trying to trip us up) with good cheer, expectations of a positive outcome…and a whole lotta moxie!

Don’t sit it out on the sidelines.  Get in there, be smart, feint when you can and hit ’em straight on when you can’t!

Running With The Dogs

My huskies are my favorite cardio companions.  They’re always eager to go out for long walks and more recently for kinda-sorta runs.  I can’t truthfully claim that we actually run since I’m pretty sure our pace doesn’t meet the standard but we trot along happily when we get to flat spots in the road on our adventures.  

For the longest time, I’ve had a bit of trouble with the female.  She wants to pull.  When I say pull, I mean she’ll strain against the leash to the point that she’s got the collar pressing on her trachea and she ends up breathing like Darth Vadar.  I figured that couldn’t be comfortable and that she’d learn not to do pull so hard eventually.  I was wrong.  I was talking about the issue with a friend of my older son’s and he told me they had experienced the same thing with their dog but had solved it by getting a harness that goes around the dog’s body and attaches to the leash via a ring at the chest instead of having the leash attached to the collar.  I wasn’t confident it would work since huskies are bred to pull and that’s what they wear on the sled when they pull heavy loads.  It seemed to me that the harness would make it much more comfortable and easy to pull (I envisioned myself flying along behind her like a kite in the wind)  but I decided to give it a try.  

Quelle surprise!  It actually worked!  I’m dumbfounded as to exactly why, since once I got the harness on her, she didn’t even TRY to pull.  It’s not like she gave it a go and got negative feedback.   We walked all over the place and she happily came along like a normal dog.  No straining, or yanking my arm out of the socket.  It was miraculous and wonderful. Little Miss (the black and white pup) is a happy camper and so am I!

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My dogs are always eager for exercise time.   Here they are with their new harnesses. They get so excited while preparing to go out, that keeping them from running in circles and getting tangled up in each other’s leashes is a challenge!

Happy August!

Oh my!  it’s August, which means that summer for the kids is just about over.  Both of them start school this month.  My oldest will be heading off to college (he already got a head start by taking a couple courses at a junior college this summer) and my “baby” will be moving into middle school (7th grade).  They do have a couple weeks of summertime fun left to enjoy but I can see the end of their carefree days from here.

The transition of summer into fall means I inevitably return to a more standard workout schedule.  The days lapse into a routine and so does my lifting.  I like it.  I’m a creature of habit so although the “catch as catch can” workouts of June and July are refreshing in a way, I love chugging along during the school year with regular intervals for my fitness pursuits.

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Progress photo 

As most of you know, I changed my routine around significantly several months back.  As a result, I’ve lost some muscle mass which I’m still struggling to accept.  I could go back to my heaving lifting days and tweak my eating a little to hold onto more muscle but my joints are much happier these days and my enthusiasm for workouts is holding steady. The heavy lifting was taxing my motivation level quite heavily in the year or so before I made the changes.  Right now, although I miss a more muscled physique when I look in the mirror, I know what I’m doing is sustainable into the future…and isn’t that the whole point?

Wishing you warm and joyful days as we head into a brand new month!

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