One day, not too long ago, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items. As I got out of the car I spotted a woman with beautiful, long hair wearing a tank top going in ahead of me. She had an amazing physique. Her shoulders, triceps and traps were beautifully shaped…muscular and lovely. I immediately started considering my own workouts lately. I started regretted not lifting heavier, with more emphasis on muscle building. My back has always been my favorite and most responsive body part to train and although I still lift diligently, I’ve not been pushing the very heavy stuff around for quite a while. Most of the time I’m pretty satisfied with the balance I’ve been able to strike. Although I’m not lifting super heavy I’ve still been able to maintain a little muscle mass and my joints are much happier than they used to be.
…But that woman! Seeing her sparked that old competitive spirit that lurks inside. I was comparing her physique to my own (both the new and the old) and watching her so intently, I wondered if she could feel me from across the parking lot.
As she turned inside the store to grab a cart, I was jolted out of my musings. She was a HE! The woman I’d been watching from behind was actually a man with long hair! I had to laugh. For years, I’ve had relatives telling me that my view of an ideal female body is skewed. I like more muscle than they do by far. I suppose this is one story I’ll keep to myself at family gatherings!
I like to remind people, especially the ladies who want to tighten their physiques, that eschewing weights is ignoring a really effective tool in that quest. Doing lots of cardio without lifting definitely has some health benefits and it’s important for overall fitness but it doesn’t actually sculpt your body. If you do enough cardio, it makes you look like a smaller version of what you looked like when you started. Weight training adds the pretty curves and lines that make the critical difference in the overall look of your physique. Working to be slimmer is a good goal and can be accomplished with a concentration on cardio but lifting to add that beautiful muscle in the right places does wonders for your overall look.
(photos from Google)
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!
Now and then it’s good to stop and assess how you’re doing in terms your goals. I have had the same goal for the past 22 years….muscle gain/maintenance without fat gain. You can look in the mirror and that tells you plenty but photographs help tell the story as well. You can’t always see yourself in the mirror properly, especially when it comes to your rear view. When you’re trying to make an informed assessment a few photos can help round out the overall picture.
The photos I just took tell me that I’ve lost a little bit of mass. I’m not upset. I expected that based on my workout program for the last 6 months. I will take steps to remedy that by switching to a lifting program that focuses a little more on heavy weight and lower reps. I know that will stimulate muscle growth and I’ll combine the heavy lifting with a few (not too many) extra calories to help things along. To get the extra calories in comfortably, I’ll just add one extra snack each day…something like almonds and an apple or turkey and avocado roll ups. Little adjustments make a big difference. I don’t want to add a ton of extra calories because that just invites fat gain and that’s not what I’m after.
Over the course of the summer, I’m confident that I’ll get some extra muscle to stick to my bones. Ready, set….LIFT!
Let me just say that I’m not one of those glamour girls who fixes her hair and wears make up to the gym. I usually wake up, brush my teeth, splash water on my face, stuff my hair into a black baseball hat, get the boys fed and ready for the day, drive my little one to school and then hit the gym. It’s a completely beauty-free affair.
I see women who put effort into their appearance before they hit the weights. They look so cute with their perfectly coiffed hair, mascara and lip gloss but that’s not me. By the end of my workout I’m a hot mess.
I don’t care. I work hard when I’m there and because if it, when it’s time, I clean up pretty well.
Happy Monday! Wishing you big energy for your workouts this week!
Here we are on one of my very favorite days. Valentine’s Day is always special. I like everything about it. I like the pink, red, chocolate and flowers. I like the teddy bears and the cards with awful rhymes in them. Who couldn’t revel in a celebration of love? Maybe I enjoy it so much because it’s a chance to stop and take stock of the love we receive but more importantly of the love we give into the world. You see, I think that’s our job. What else are we here for except to shine the light of love into the dark cracks? We don’t have to go looking far to find places where a little word of kindness can make a difference. Every day presents us with opportunities if we are looking for them.
…and while we’re looking for those opportunities, we must also remember that we deserve our own gentle treatment and encouragement. There is nothing noble in being unkind to yourself. Whatever tasks you take on, whatever goals you set (in the gym or out) you will fall short at some time or another. That is inevitable. The way you respond, however, is critical to your future success. If you allow a blaming, shaming internal dialogue you probably won’t be able to salvage much from the experience. Nobody learns or grows well in an environment of negativity and that includes the one you build yourself with cruel thoughts and words directed internally.
While we celebrate this beautiful day, remember that you have great power to affect the world. You never know how much a simple, loving word or deed can mean to someone else and you can’t very well do a good job of finding those opportunities if you’ve torn yourself to shreds with your own thoughts. Be easy with yourself. When you stumble, take a deep breath, resolve to do better, dust yourself off…and keep going.
I’m happy to report that my efforts in the gym and focus on my nutritional intake since returning from my summer trip to South Africa has paid off. Instead of being a little jiggly (which I was when I returned..and which I rightfully earned with my lack of exercise and eating with a shovel) I’ve managed to firm it up and return to my normal non-wiggly self.
This was accomplished with a two-pronged approach. I returned to my workouts with a new intensity. The time off gave me a chance to regroup and rest my joints. When I got back to lifting I felt refreshed and very strong. I particularly focused on my shoulder and bicep development and began a routine in which I purposefully overtrained them for a few weeks, then took one week completely off shoulder/bicep training. Now I’m back to the overtraining three-week block. I also made sure to get my cardio in, not enough to burn up the muscle I was trying to build/hold but enough to remove the little layer of fluff that had taken up residence under my skin. I generally kept my cardio sessions to 30 minutes each time I hit the weights (and will continue this for a few weeks longer). I’ve learned not to do too much cardio even though I want to when I’m trying to lean out. It’s hard to stop myself from doing just that but I know from experience it makes me unpleasantly skinny by eating up the muscle I work so hard for.
I didn’t do anything radical with my diet, I simply moved away from eating those treats I’d been allowing myself. The potato chips, cheese and fatty meats were removed and I increased my vegetable intake (particularly the dark green, leafy variety). The added veggies were to keep me from getting hungry and helped me resist the Sirens’ song of the chips I love so much. I admit I have had pizza a few times but I kept it to one piece instead of the whole pie. That’s where the veggies came in handy. I got to feel full AND have a little treat.
A little attention to my output in the gym and to my nutritional needs makes all the difference in how I look.
People often ask me how I stay lean year around and I tell them that it’s the small changes that make the difference in the way your physique looks. The first step is to avoid letting things get out of hand. Big swings in weight (fat to muscle ratio) are hard to manage but small swings are easy to correct. A little attention to what goes in your mouth and a little increase in intensity in workouts goes a long way.
When I got back from my recent trip to South Africa I took a photo for the Marines. I actually took a couple of bikinis and a Marine Corps flag along on my vacation with the hope of being able to get a cool shot with a giraffe or a colorful African sunset in the background. That didn’t work since I could never find a private time or place to take the photograph without making of a spectacle of myself.
The word spectacle makes me laugh because it reminds me of what my younger sister would say now and then when we were little. She’d put her hands on her hips and say “Lynnie, you’re making a speckle of yourself!” I don’t know WHAT she meant since I was always perfectly well-behaved, but I digress. Although I do enjoy photography of all kinds I’m shy when it comes to taking photos of myself and prefer not to have an audience. There are times I grin and bear it when I think it’s for a good cause like when I insisted on marching out onto a well populated beach in San Diego with a different Marine Corps flag, and when I climbed a hill overlooking a resort in Utah with my American flag, oh yeah, and when I put on my American flag bikini in Mexico and ran up the knoll, past security, to the warning flag overlooking the ocean and a busy beach. OK…sometimes I do make a speckle of myself but an appropriate time in Africa never came around. About a week ago I decided it was a good time to try to get the photo I wanted.
Now take a good look at this photo. I do believe I’m looking a bit curvier than usual. As you know I don’t rely on the scale to tell me what to focus on in my workouts. The mirror does an excellent job of accurately pointing me in the right direction as does the camera. My “holding steady” workouts over the past couple of months and my 2.5 weeks off combined with big eating in Africa (did I tell you I ate an entire pizza for lunch three days in a row in Cape Town? No? Left that part out I guess). The point is that although I came back weighing just about the same, my body composition is clearly different than it was a couple of months ago. This is the juncture in the conversation when I used to say “I’m fat” which I learned caused my friends (who aren’t lifters) to become extremely agitated and yell out things like “You’re crazy!” or “You’re obsessed!” (which could possibly be true but has nothing to do with my very accurate assessment of my body’s condition). What I mean by fat is that although I’m clear on the fact that I don’t look like the Michelin Man, my fat to muscle ratio is not where I like to keep it. This doesn’t put me in a bad mood or make me regret eating large quantities of cheesy, salty, delicious, delicious…did I say DELICIOUS pizza. I just know it’s time to go to work. It’s easy when you note the trajectory early on and change course.
These last few days have been just fine. I’ve made adjustments (oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast instead of ham and cheese omelets for instance) and I’m putting some serious effort into the workouts, particularly my lifting (I’m keeping the cardio to 30 minutes per lifting session). Pretty soon those dangerous curves will be gone and then I’ll be rocking the pretty, muscular curves that I love so much!
There are roughly three main body types in the population. They are known as Ectomorphs, Mesomorphs and Endomorphs.
To help you visualize what an ectomorph looks like, think of the physique that Olive Oyl had in the old Popeye cartoons.
She was tall and slender. She had little body fat and no curves. I looked a lot like her before I started lifting weights (except that I was never tall). In the days before my love affair with the gym started, I was very slight. As a matter of fact my friends made up a poem about me. It went, “Lynnie is skinny from too little dinny.” Yes, we were an incredibly talented and creative bunch!
Thinking about body types brought to mind a post I wrote a couple of years ago. I thought I’d share it here.
Reasons I’ll Never Have a Swelled Head
A while ago, I picked up my boys from school. I waited for them out front then walked them down the hill to the car. As I bent my legs to get in, I felt that particular soreness that only heavy squats can bring. “Ow, ow, ow” I muttered as I slid into the seat. My older boy, ever the sweet and compassionate child piped up. “What hurts now?” I explained that my legs were complaining and told him proudly about my fantastic leg day and how happy I was because I’d managed a personal best for the dreaded squats. He wanted to know how much weight I had used. I told him and he retorted “Oh mom, that’s so pathetic! Mike can do so much better than that!” The Mike he was referring to happens to be a Bodyspace friend who is a completely amazing , freak of a human being…a true gym beast. I laughed because the comparison was so outrageous and went on to explain that there was no way for me to squat like Mike. “First of all” I said, “I’m a woman. Not only that, I’m a small woman…slender with little bones….kind of like a fairy or a sprite. Matter of fact” I went on, “there is a name for my body type. I’m what’s called an Ectomorph!” Right then, my little one piped up from the back seat. “What did she say? What is she?” His brother turned to him and said “She thinks she’s a fairy…or a sprite or an…an…Ectodwarf!” They both burst out laughing and I had to listen to chants of “Mommy is an Ectodwarf” all the way home.
In case you were wondering, they haven’t forgotten it. Just last night my older boy leaned over the banister to call his brother for dinner. “The Ectodwarf says come up here…it’s time to eat!” It’s not funny, not funny at all! They can’t remember to take out the garbage or bring in the milk but they can sure remember that! Geez…
A couple weeks ago I started a new “Kick My Own Patootie” six-week plan. My goal is to put on a little muscle (or at least maintain what I have) while leaning out a bit at the same time and getting stronger. I had been been coasting for a while with my workouts which is fine in the overall scheme of things. I cycle like that…high intensity workouts for several weeks 6-8) then a week or three of less intense workouts. As usual, I’m using myself as a lab experiment, trying to challenge my body in new and different ways.
Over the weekend I did something I’d never done before. I dug out a backpack, put one of my 20lb dumbbells in it and headed down to the track. Since this is my first time walking/running with weight, I took it easy and alternated fast walking a quarter-mile, then running (well more like shuffling) a quarter-mile. I just did two miles total…4 sets of each. I could have done more but I’ve learned when asking my body to do something unfamiliar it’s best to give it a little taste then start demanding more as I go along.
Adding new things to your rotation helps keep boredom at bay but it also serves to challenge your body in different ways. In this case variety really is the spice of life. It keeps you engaged mentally (you can’t just go through the motions, you have to think and be methodical because it’s unfamiliar), it stresses muscles in different ways which leads to better results and it gives joints a break from repetitive use.
You don’t have to find a series of exercises someone else created. You don’t need a magazine or internet article. You can make up your own challenges. You know when you’re working hard and when you’re not. Creating new elements to add to your program keeps your head in the game and besides, nobody knows your body like you do!