If you had asked me a week ago what the title of this blog would be, it would have read something like, “Why I quit my daydream. My decision to stop competing.”
My daughter and I hit a rough patch in August. We returned from the beach where we spent a lot of time this summer, transitioned her away from her pacifier and my husband went back to work full-time, working from 7am-9:30pm for the first three weeks of August. We were used to this camp schedule which takes place at the beginning of every football season, so we anticipated the change…I thought. My daughter took it hard. “Where’s Daddy?” all day everyday. I took her to his office during this transition, so they could spend 45 minutes together some days when he had a break, but of course that was not enough time with her best buddy. Her behavior became almost unbearable at times, and there were many days I spent crying on the sofa after she had yet another tantrum. I did not know who my child had become. I had never seen her act out like this before. Was my newly 3-year old really a threenager? After many of her episodes, doing my best to hold it together with calm responses but failing often, I would ask her, “Gianna what is WRONG?” Her answer was always the same, “I MISS DADDY.” Finally camp ended, Justin was around a bit more, and her outbursts slowly dissipated. I made a very conscious effort to spend more time playing when I was not working instead of doing mundane tasks like emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry. I also read the book, “The Whole Brain Child” by Dr. Dan Siegel which helped me to understand how her brain was working at this stage of her life. It gave me some strategies to help me respond better during conflict.
During this time, my progress for my shows this fall had stalled. My body was physically changing as I made changes to my diet and training, but my weight would not budge. Some days I would burn over 2500 calories in normal living and exercise (according to my Polar A370 activity tracker), eat only 1400 calories and wake up the next day the same weight or more. This went on for weeks and for the entire month of August my weight fluctuated between 142-144 pounds, never getting lower.
I reached a low point where I laid on the sofa one day with no motivation to do anything. Things I loved to do like training and teaching my spin classes no longer excited me. I knew something was really wrong, and I was pretty sure that cortisol was to blame. “Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear.” I knew that stress was preventing me from making progress. I am a big believer in following good orderly direction (no coincidence that the acronym is G.O.D.) in times like these when I’m at a crossroad. Part of me believed that maybe it was time to stop competing. I had already made some significant changes to my body, and I was happy with how I looked, having no desire to lose more weight. I had found a great balance with food after a nice off season, enjoying small treats but rarely going overboard. I felt great. Why did I need to keep going, keep losing, for the stage? But then the other competitive side of me knew I still had unfinished business to attend to before I gave up the sport. I decided to gave it one more week. I hit my favorite yoga class, got a massage, TALKED about my stress instead of bottling it up inside per my usual m.o., and during that same time my daughter’s behavior started to return to normal. I also added an adrenal support supplement to my arsenal of vitamins and got a big boost of food in my diet on Tuesday last week (a refeed day where I got to eat 250g of carbs after a heavy leg day). This past weekend, I woke up at my lowest weight this prep 139 pounds. I had broken through the wall, and more importantly, I felt different inside. I’ve finally found my stride, and I’m ready to move forward over the next 6 weeks to hit my goal weight for my first show.
If you are struggling with your fitness goals, I suggest that you check your stress levels like I did. “It can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems, including: anxiety and depression, headaches, heart disease, memory and concentration problems, problems with digestion, trouble sleeping and weight gain.” (according to WebMD).
Take a moment to laugh, take a walk, talk about what’s going on inside. Let stress go so you can move forward into your goals. That’s what I did, and onward we go.
Women always ask me where to begin when it comes to lifting weights.
Today, I’ll share with you some important information that I’ve learned over the past 4 years since I took my own weight lifting from a cardio-afterthought to a serious part of my workout routine. I hope this information inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and into the weight room. It’s really not as scary as it seems.
- Did you know that after the age of 35, muscle mass begins to decline at a rapid rate? According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.” I always recommend to my clients over the age of 35, that OVER HALF of their workouts per week are resistance training and not cardio-based. So in regards to how often, my recommendation for a schedule where you workout 5 hours a week is over 2.5 hours of that exercise time is resistance training. Personally, I workout for 9 hours a week which includes 4 hours of cardio and about 5 hours of weight lifting. I always take at least one full rest day per week, sometimes two.
- There are many different ways to structure your weight lifting routines, so you will have to take into account how much time each week you can devote to your training. There are three different splits to consider which you can read more about here. Personally, I prefer the 4 day split, which I break into 5 total days. Here is how I structure my weight training days:
- Mondays: Chest & Back
- Tuesday: Legs & Glutes
- Wednesday: Biceps & Abs
- Thursday: Shoulders & Triceps
- Friday: Legs & Calves
After you’ve determined which split you are going to follow you should buy yourself a small notebook and any other equipment that your gym lacks, so that you are ready to hit the ground running on Day 1.
Personally, I love these Phantom Fit resistance bands for warming up my glutes during leg day. I also use these ankle straps for cable kick-backs, since my gym does not offer them. At the beginning of each week, I write down the exercises that I am going to complete each day so when I start my workout, I know exactly what I am going to do. Then I write down my weights for each exercise and how long I rested between sets. If you don’t know which exercises you’re going to do, start with some of the circuit machines versus free weights. Machines are a good place to start for beginners because it forces you to practice perfect form, whereas free weights leave a lot of room for error. You’ll want to stick to the same routine for 4-6 weeks, and then change it up, so your body does not get bored. Focus on increasing your weights as the weeks go on. Aim for 4 sets of 15 reps one week, and then next week try 4 sets of 12 reps at a HEAVIER weight.
- If you get nervous by the phrase “lift heavy” and you envision super bulky men with veins popping from their biceps, grunting and throwing their weights on the ground, think again. Here is an image of women a who lifts heavy. Not too shabby, eh?
A good rule of thumb when choosing a weight that is right for each exercise is to choose a weight that 1) allows you to practice perfect form, 2) makes it HARD to complete 12-15 reps, 3) you are STRUGGLING to complete your last set of reps with. If you can complete more than 30 reps at once using the weight you’ve chosen, that the weight is TOO LIGHT. Step it up! I always see men and women compromising their form in their effort to increase their weights. Remember, MOMENTUM IS NOT A MUSCLE! Perfect form first. Heavier weight second.
For more information on lifting weights check out bodybuilding.com for tips and free online programs. I also highly recommend any of Jessie Hilgenberg’s ebooks which you can learn about on her site: jessiefitness.com.
I hope to see you in the weight room one day very soon! XO, Mary