I’ll bet you know someone like this. I know I do…several, in fact. It’s often easier for people to take better care of those they love (kids, partners, friends and even pets) than they take care of themselves.
I wish everyone would make an effort to support themselves the same way they nurture the most beloved, appreciated, wonderful people in their lives.
It’s important to remember that you are your first responsibility. You can’t help other people effectively if you allow yourself to fall into disrepair. Ignoring nutritional needs and skipping adequate physical activity invites avoidable weakness and sickness into your life.
Please make it a point to treat yourself at least as kindly as you treat those most dear to you. It’s the right thing to do and if you feel guilty when you take time to feed yourself properly or exercise, remember, you’re a lot better at giving to others when you’re strong and healthy yourself!
There were times my mom called me Little Miss Impatient when I was a child. It’s true, I wasn’t that good at waiting although I got much better as I grew up. Nevertheless, when I start a new rotation in my exercise plan, I want quick results! I started one of Jim Stoppani’s plans and I’m now on week 7. I do see some changes in my physique. I’m tighter, significantly stronger, the striations in my chest are showing more prominently and my muscles are starting to appear more full. BUT NOT FULL ENOUGH!
Yes, I’ll admit I’m impatient when waiting for results…but I also know I’m not the only one!
Fall is my favorite season and it’s here full force. I love the cooler weather, the colors of the season, comfort foods bubbling on the stove and of course, the fall holidays. I generally start decorating for Halloween on September 15th…for the children. It’s for the children!
I picked my costume early, then had the bright idea to create a thematic series of photos featuring it. I call them my Bad Maid photographs. They crack me up because the remind me of my youth.
My mom worked full time. She was a chemist and very active in the community so she was quite busy. She relied on my sister and I to do our share of the housework. Sadly, as a teenager I wasn’t the best cleaner in the world. As a matter of fact, it would be accurate to say I was often quite lazy. I rarely did an excellent job, so the Bad Maid is, in an amusing way a real reflection of myself during those years. When it was my turn to clean, I’d always do the vacuuming correctly (but I wouldn’t move the furniture to get underneath it) since you could see clear evidence if I did a shoddy job. I knew my mom would know if I didn’t do that job reasonably well. I couldn’t hide it. However, when it came to dusting, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t lift a finger. I’d wait until right before my mom came home and spray Lemon Pledge into the air so it would smell like I’d actually done some work.
I’m sorry now that I wasn’t more helpful at that time in my life. Believe me, I bet my mom laughs from above when she sees me fussing at my boys for things like dumping dirt out of their shoes in the downstairs hallway (and then leaving the shoes there so I trip over them), tracking mud through my freshly mopped kitchen or finding a giant bucket full of little yellow BB’s spilled all over the carpet.
In the spirit of Halloween, and my misspent youth, I present the first of the Bad Maid photos.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)