Doing What I Want, When I Want

This is currently how I keep track of my workouts.

Current exercise plan - My boys know I keep this on the kitchen counter all week long.  Therefore they will sometimes write notes (like 'we need peanut butter') on the sheet because they know I'll see it.  Last week my younger son doodled a couple of stick figures on it !

Current exercise plan – My boys know I keep this on the kitchen counter all week long. Therefore they will sometimes write notes (like ‘we need peanut butter’) on the sheet because they know I’ll see it. Last week my younger son doodled a couple of stick figures on it !

Each week I have a minimum number of exercises to perform. Those are listed at the top of each week’s workout sheet. Some of the exercises must be performed once (walking lunges) in a 7 day period, some twice (biceps) and one of them 5 times (abs). That doesn’t mean I perform just one set of walking lunges when I do them. It means that I perform them until I feel the muscle has been sufficiently challenged. Typically, I reach that point at 5-10 sets, depending on how heavy I’m lifting. I always do one very light warm up set of approximately 20-30 reps, but I don’t count that as a legitimate set.

I perform the exercises in any order I wish, and it varies each week. When I feel strong, I’ll do many of the exercises in a single day. When I’m not feeling as strong or motivated, I might just tackle abs, pull ups and pushups.

I make an effort to leave one complete rest day each week but as you can see from last week, I don’t always make that goal. I usually finish all the required exercises on Saturday and I take Sundays off. Last Sunday I had to squeeze in some walking lunges.

The cardio I do each week isn’t included on the sheet. I walk the dogs each weekday and we don’t saunter along. We basically race walk the entire way, up and down hills. I’ll ride the stationary bike or row in addition to walking them, when I feel like it.

My walking buddies - They want to walk no matter what the weather.   When we go to the mountains in the winter, they're especially happy.  They can go for miles in the snow, no matter how deep it is.  Walking with them keeps me in good shape!

My walking buddies – They want to walk no matter what the weather. When we go to the mountains in the winter, they’re especially happy. They can go for miles in the snow, no matter how deep it is. Walking with them keeps me in good shape!

*This is a relatively new way of doing things for me. For the 23 years leading up to this point, I almost always followed a more traditional workout routine, meaning I had particular exercises I performed on specific days. That definitely worked but this allows the flexibility I crave these days. I developed this plan so that I could take advantage of my natural energy flow. I’m happy with how it’s going and I’m pleased to report that I’ve started to add a little more muscle lately.

Celebration Of Service Friday (#14)

This letter was written by Hunter R. last year when she was 16 years old.  She wrote it for my book, Words For Warriors. Words For Warriors is a book I published with a little help from my friends.  I pass it out for free at VA hospitals/clinics, to organizations that serve veterans and I give copies to individual veterans and their families.



“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

Opening my eyes this morning, the first thing I saw was my room, as humble and unchanged as ever. I heard the cliché bird chirping of my alarm going off and I groaned as I forced myself out of bed. There is nothing to be afraid of in my morning. The monotony is satisfying and something that I know will stay consistent.

As a protector of this country, there is not that satisfying monotony. Waking up in a different area constantly, to new sounds and strange people, is normal. During times of fighting, fear is evident from the time your eyes open to the time your eyes close. Fighting for something you consider worthwhile is the most courageous endeavor you can face. Anyone can become accustomed to routines, but it takes a true hero to be willing to face the unknown.

As warriors, fear is not a wall, but an obstacle that can be taken over with willpower. There is nothing more valiant than to fight for what you believe in. Thank you for putting yourselves into the unknown, and being the epitome of strength.

*Should you want to find out more about the Words For Warriors Project, please stop by and you can see what it’s all about.  If you want to participate with a letter and photo/s of your own, your contribution would be most welcome.

Why Is This “Ish” So Heavy?

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Poor guy!  Look at his little, chicken arms!  Any veteran lifter knows exactly how he feels.  There are times when a 20lb dumbbell feels like 40lbs.  That’s when you have to dig deep and ask your body to perform even when it’s rebelling.  The trick is to get it to do SOMETHING in a positive direction.  You certainly can’t just pack up and leave the gym because that sets a bad precedent psychologically.

If 20lbs feels like 40lbs, my suggestion is to grab the 12lb or 10lb dumbbells and proceed with your workout.  Don’t despair, don’t quit…just adjust and keep right on going!

Want To Lean Out? Try This!


If you’re a bodybuilder/fitness enthusiast and you want to get lean there are a variety of tricks to help you reach your goal. One of the more effective ways I’ve found is to add one minute of jump roping between sets when you’re lifting. When you finish a set, grab the rope and go. You can rest before starting the next set but you should try to make the rest sessions as short as possible. The added bit of cardio will help you lean out fast.

*This doesn’t mean you can forgo your other cardio. It’s just a good way to add a little extra, painless cardio into the mix.


**If you don’t have a jumprope or you get frustrated because you’re not very good at it and you have to stop and start, you can substitute jumping jacks (the regular sort or the type where you keep your legs together while moving your arms if you find they bother your knees) or simply jump up and down for one minute between sets.


Celebration Of Service Friday (#13)

“O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”

May I have 3:49 minutes of your time?

Mr. Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful.  His rendition is a moving tribute. Close your eyes and listen.

America the Beautiful (by Katherine Lee Bates)

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Ray Charles

Ray Charles

“FAT DENIED” – April 13


I love the way this piece was put together. It’s so well done that I wanted to share it.

Originally posted on A DEVOTED LIFE:

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”  Philippians 3:19

lose-weight-now-300x200I have reached an unachievable milestone.

Four years ago my bathroom scale registered 227 lbs.  That too was a milestone but not a surprise.  I had been on a rather rapid ascension as I broke new heavier weights on a regular basis.  This ascension was quickly taking me to 230 lbs; an unthinkable weight that no longer allowed me to deny the reality of my physique.  I had ceased to be husky or thick or filled-out.

I was fat.

For years, my exercise had consisted of mere yard work associated with the eating habits of a twenty-nothing’s metabolism.  Inevitably, every birthday was heralded with a larger number on the bathroom scale.  Yet, my body type allowed me to deny the reality of the bathroom scale.  I carry…

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Oh dear!  That’s not a good look….but I must confess, I was adamantly determined to avoiding squats FOR YEARS!

Long ago when I first started working out with my sister at the YMCA, we asked a trainer to show us how to maximize our time in the gym.  We had already been working out for a while at an all women’s gym but we’d decided to take the plunge and get more serious about weight training, hence our eagerness to pick the brain of the big, buffed up trainer who was on morning duty at the Y.  He showed us a few things and I remember he recommended we do squats which he swore would put some mass on my chicken legs.  I nodded dutifully as he demonstrated proper form, and proceeded to ignore his advice for the next several years.

Mind you, I always worked on my legs and did so diligently, doing leg extensions, deadlifts, lunges of all types and at times jogging on the treadmill but I just didn’t want to do any squats.  They seemed so hard…and exhausting…and I was sure I could get comparable results doing other exercises.

I was wrong.  One day in 2009, in a fit of pique over my stick legs, I wrote an email to a friend, a Marine who I was pen pals with.  He was deployed to Afghanistan at the time.  He didn’t give me any sympathy, just basically told me to stop complaining, man up and SQUAT.  Now coming from anyone else, it might not have actually made me change a thing but he had a deep passion for lifting like I did and oddly enough we were very successful in pushing each other in a friendly but powerful way even across the miles.  With his challenge flag thrown, I couldn’t worm out of doing squats any longer.

Using good form is a must.  If you don't know how to squat, ask a skilled trainer to show you proper technique.  Like so many exercises, squats are wonderful done correctly but you can injure yourself if you don't perform them correctly!.

Using good form is a must. If you don’t know how to squat, ask a skilled trainer to show you proper technique. Like so many exercises, squats are wonderful if done the right way but you can injure yourself if you don’t perform them correctly!.

That was the beginning of some very good progress, which I immediately saw in my legs but also in my physique as a whole.  Luckily my glutes were never problematic (I never looked like the flat bottom girl) but squatting served to help keep my backside nice and tight, it vastly improved my quad development and strengthened my core.  At one point I made it a goal to be able to squat twice my bodyweight and I did that successfully.  I don’t squat quite that heavy anymore but squats are still an important part of my lifting program.

You can do squats with a barbell, or you can do them with dumbbells.  I used to prefer barbell squats but these days I'm really enjoying the dumbbell squats.

You can do squats with a barbell, or you can do them with dumbbells. I used to prefer barbell squats but these days I’m really enjoying the dumbbell squats.

If you want an even bigger challenge, you can do the dumbbell squats but instead of just standing up at the top of the movement you can pop up into a jump.  Made sure you use good form and soft knees for the jumping squats.  Start out with relatively light weight until you see how your body reacts to them.  If it hurts your knees while you’re doing them or in the next days after, stick with just standing up with the weights and forgo the jumping.  Jumping squats work for me…and I love them!

Nice glutes here (nice everything really), I know she squats!  Photo from Ironman (AU).

Nice glutes here…great physique overall, I know she squats! Photo from Ironman (AU).

Celebration Of Service Friday (#12)

God bless the men who volunteer to serve our country.  God bless the women who volunteer to serve our country. Your efforts are both necessary and appreciated.

I reserved this space on Friday for a weekly celebration of military service.  This Friday, I’m posting an opinion piece (no, I’m not tired of standing on my soapbox yet).  This Friday, it’s a celebration of service, the way it stands! I keep reading articles about putting women into combat jobs. There seems to be a particular interest in getting them into Special Operations positions (Rangers, SEALs, Special Forces etc). 

I first published this on February 11, 2013

Women In Combat – Perspective From A Female Bodybuilder

Women in combat positions….it’s an idea I’ve turned around in my head many times. Before we go any farther I have to state that I’m not nor have I ever been a member of the military. I AM the daughter of a very accomplished woman with a pioneer spirit. My mother was a chemist in the days when a woman, let alone a black woman, in the hard sciences was practically unheard of. She was discouraged in her endeavors by many, including her professors. They told her directly that women didn’t belong in the discipline and some refused to help her when she had trouble with concepts in class. Nevertheless, she persevered and had a long, successful career at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco).

I say this because her spirit and her commitment to a path that went against societal norms had a strong influence on my own perspective regarding non-traditional roles for females. I am fully convinced that women can do any job men can do, equally as well…with few exceptions…one of those being service in combat.

I can practically hear the sighs of disappointment from many of you but I think what I have to say is worth a few moments of consideration.

I’m an amateur, natural bodybuilder and have been for the past 21 years. I’ve always been incredibly athletic and physically strong, however, I’ve learned from hanging out with males in the gym that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY I can compete with them on lifts. No matter what I eat or how I train, my strength is still far inferior to even a moderately fit, capable male. Sure I can embarrass some of the guys who walk in off the street and are just starting out but when going head to head with a man who has been in the gym and training for a while, it isn’t even a contest. I’ve seen it myself with repetitive regularity. Even the strongest, most athletic, motivated women can’t match strength with fit men.  Women simply aren’t as strong and in combat situations brute strength IS a consideration. For their own safety and the safety of their teammates, lack of strength is a serious issue.

Women’s sports are always separated from men’s sports for a reason. Women don’t box men in competition, they don’t climb into the ring for MMA matches with male opponents, they don’t play football in the NFL, basketball in the NBA or hockey in the NHL…for goodness sake, they don’t even play competitive golf or tennis against men because of the commonly acknowledged, natural differences in strength. If we understand this in sporting contests, engaged in strictly for entertainment, why on Earth would we put women into combat situations, against men, where the stakes are so terribly high?


Believe me, I’m strong…but it’s foolish to think that I could consistently perform physically at the same level as my male counterparts. Even with the best technique training in the world, I’m at a significant disadvantage in strength.

Believe me, I’m strong…but it’s foolish to think that I could consistently perform physically at the same level as my male counterparts. Even with the best technique training in the world, I’m at a significant disadvantage in strength.

This same lack of equivalent strength and stamina comes into play when loading equipment, carrying equipment (rucking with 50lbs for miles on end), jumping out of airplanes and having to land with 75lbs or more on your back, carrying an injured 200 pound fellow fighter out of harms way….these are all things that would necessarily be compromised. Not only would the female likely not be able to handle the weight loads, the trust that any effective combat unit has among members would be undermined since their teammates would know in the back of their minds that there truly was a weak link in the chain. Even a shadow of doubt could cause serious disruption in the morale and effectiveness of the unit as a whole.

All that being said, I’m sure there are a few women on the planet, genetic anomalies, who could actually match strength with a man, but is it worth opening combat positions to all women because an infinitesimal minority could actually do the job? I say no. The good of the whole is more important than what a tiny but vocal group of women (and strangely misguided men) want.

The current argument in favor of women in combat says, let women try. Let them have the same opportunity to showcase their skills as the males in the military. If they can’t hack it and meet the standard, then they can’t serve in combat positions. What I know is that as soon as the possibility is opened, there will be great pressure from those who are pushing this agenda to get some women through the pipeline and on the job. Commanders will be made to understand that women MUST have a presence in the combat units and the absolute minimum standards will be compromised in order to quiet cries of sexism and quell accusations that women can’t earn their way into the positions because of the “good old boy” network.

Despite my unshakeable belief that women are as valuable as men, as intellectually capable and morally equivalent, I do believe that Mother Nature has a say in the question of whether women should serve in ground combat positions.

I should note that there are places in combat situations where women could do an excellent job even taking into account the strength differentials.  Female fighter pilots come to mind.  In that case, it’s mind and machine working in concert, the plane being the equalizer, however, it’s absurd to think that women can be as effective as men in traditional ground and pound, front line combat jobs and trying to put them there is a mistake.

*This is part one of my argument against putting women into combat jobs. I have other reservations besides the pure strength difference but that’s a conversation for another day.*

I never did write the second (or third) part of my argument against putting women in combat units but all the reservations I had in 2013 still stand.  It’s foolhardy, reckless and destructive to use the military as a petri dish for disruptive social engineering experiments.  Allowing political correctness, instead of common sense to rule policy is going to exact a terrible toll.

Get Going!


The reason this is funny is that we’ve all ginned up reasons to avoid exercise.  There are times when that little voice inside gives you all kinds of silly excuses to skip workouts.  It’s something we all face, although you definitely get better at resisting the temptation once regular workouts become a habit.

Be on the alert for the lilting song of sabotage.  Ignore it and make sure to get those workouts in!

Ditch The Diet

I have a wonderful friend who wants to be slimmer.  As long as I’ve known her, she has lamented the fact that she’s carrying about 30lbs more than she’d like.  Now and then, she’ll go on a diet.  She’s got good will power and inevitably loses weight but once she has success, she’ll revert back to her regular way of eating and therefore her regular physique.


I don’t know what her latest diet was called.  She always researches diligently before choosing a published plan she thinks will work for her.  She’s right, it does work…but only for the time she’s following it.  That’s the fundamental problem.  She, like so many others, thinks that if she adopts a particular plan, she’ll lose weight and that weight loss will be permanent when she returns to her normal way of eating.  It’s a common misunderstanding and the reason so many people give up their goal to have a trim figure.

If you adopt a temporary eating plan, you’ll get temporary results.  That’s the bottom line.  Forget about diets.  The only way to have long-term success is to permanently change your eating habits.  It sounds so daunting that most people don’t want to do it.   I advise them to forget about fast fixes and to move slowly toward better eating over several months.  If you make dramatic, sudden changes in diet, it’s a good bet you won’t be able to hold it over the long haul.  Baby steps are best in this instance.

When asked, I usually recommend people lower their intake of drinks other than water, unsweetened coffee/tea and wine (the wine is for relief after reading the news…it’s medicinal and very much needed).  The chemicals and artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are off the list.  I tell them to work on slowly reducing the amount of processed food they eat (anything with more than 7 ingredients is probably a no-go).  Most people eat lots of bread, pasta and potatoes so I’ll suggest they serve themselves much smaller portions of those foods and fill in with more protein (chicken, lean beef, game meat, fish, eggs, turkey) and veggies.  I never tell them to cut those foods out of their diets completely, just to minimize the amount they eat.  My strongest recommendation is that people avoid high sugar items (simple carbs) like cookies, candy and pastries.  Again, I don’t tell them not to eat them at all but to be smart about their consumption.  Breakfast isn’t a time for high sugar items.  You can have a cookie after a meal containing a good amount of protein, for instance but having a cookie on an empty stomach is sure to play havoc with your metabolism.

Taken all together, changing your way of eating for good can be daunting but taking several weeks or months to adopt new habits is the best recipe for long-term success.  Traditional diets might work for a short while but they just don’t bring forever results.


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