My Fitness Journey
There was a period of time when I first ventured to lose weight after having my boys that I decided to become a runner. I would get to work at 5:00 a.m. and run as best I could, never improving, hating ever step of it. It hurt every inch of my body, it burned my lungs. I HATED IT! I trained for a 5K, did all the things you would naturally do as you are starting to become a runner. But my friends who were runners, the ones who loved it so much? Quite frankly, I love them, but they are a special breed of CRAZY (queue the angry comments)! I finally put that obsession aside when my chiropractor told me to do something that was a lower impact sport to avoid putting too much stress on my body (scoliosis, flat feet, etc), and I was left grasping at straws to find some sort of physical activity that I could do and enjoy.
Almost five years ago I stumbled upon a very useful, but dangerous weapon I affectionately refer to as Pinterest. When my account was in its wee infancy, I stumbled upon something so revolutionary, it completely changed the way I thought about healthy. It was Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer on Bodybuilding.com.
While Jamie is an avid proponent of clean eating, her trainer guided me through the basics of bodybuilding. And over the years, I have developed an arsenal of knowledge that if I applied properly, would make me a pretty hot little mama who should be pretty gosh darn healthy by now! The image of a healthy woman, with a body fat percentage between 15-23%, is an illusive goal that I strive to attain. Her trainer is something that I return to from time to time to reset back to the basics of weight training fundamentals. It’s just a great program all around.
Spinning My Wheels
Well, back to Pinterest. I had pinned a number of pins with little workout routines that were pretty to look at, but were just sitting in the cloud staring back at me, comfy on my couch with my ice cream and fat and laziness. But then, I came upon Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer, and my husband and I decided to implement it. We had a gym set up in our basement in the Rocky Mountains, at the time, with a bench press and some free weights. We went through the program and saw progress. My brother, who was 16 or 17 at the time, had also started down his own bodybuilding path. He had committed to getting healthy after our dad had a heart attack a few years earlier.
Right before I began this process, I lost a significant amount of weight on the HcG diet. DON’T DO IT!!! I gained it all back, and then some. I began researching like a crazy woman, jumping from one person’s “science” to another. I ended up trying to fit heavy lifting with excessive calorie restriction. The results? I lost a ton of weight and looked better than I had in a very long time!
While bodybuilding.com features content that is scientifically-based, such as Jamie’s program, there are several websites and trainers out there that do not pose healthy approaches to fitness. Just in case you have never heard this before, don’t believe everything you read on the internet! While Jamie’s program provides sound guidance to training, there are many trainers out there that either do not know what they are talking about, know enough to make them dangerous, or really just care about self-advertising and making money.
Even though I have never ventured down the path of competition, I became so obsessed with some of the cutting tactics that trainers used, that I quickly worked myself into another eating disorder, over-training, over-taxed nervous system, and an overall wreck. A sound program, such as Jamie’s, will advocate keeping your calories as high as possible to support a healthy metabolism. Even while cutting, this should be a calculate approach to find a deficit that will allow you to lose fat at a rate that will minimize muscle loss. That means while you can probably find a plan that helps you lose 30 pounds in four weeks, it is most likely an unhealthy approach to fat loss.
The internet is such a useful tool, but it can also be very dangerous in the hands of someone who is looking for a “get-thin-quick” scheme. I was the person who is using WebMD to misdiagnose myself, and I was very gullible to the gimmicks. So I decided that since the lowest recommended daily caloric intake was 1,200 calories, I would eat that bare minimum, while lifting heavy and doing additional cardio to get thin. But I couldn’t ever sustain this. I was too stressed, too exhausted, I just wanted that ICE CREAM too much!
So I would lose the weight, burn myself out, and gain that back and more. Or I wouldn’t see results quickly enough, because if I am truly honest, I was not consistent, and I did not comply with the program. I mean, really, I was the example of why we, as Americans, are always on a “diet”, yet continue to be overweight. Mentally, not being able to comply with a program, should have signaled me that something else was nullifying my efforts… my mind!
I wound up in the hospital with an overtaxed nervous system and an anxiety disorder. Oh goody! I stopped lifting, started eating everything I wanted and craved, which was usually sweets and treats to handle the stress, and I started gaining significant amounts of body fat. I was absolutely shocked, because I had fat in places I never had fat before, even at my heaviest weight 225 pounds. My back, my belly, my arms. I usually just held the weight in my hips and thighs. I got depressed. We moved, and I stopped lifting. Kept gaining fat. In the picture below, I had lost almost 100 pounds.
Back to My True Love
But even with all of my failures, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that strength training was the way to go, and I was not about to give up! In part because the actual science made sense. In part because I saw changes in my body composition that was undeniable. And in part because I FELL IN LOVE with IRON! My husband, like you, future readers, is blissfully unaware of this little blogging project. But one day, he may read this post and think, “Bah! That woman and her diets and workouts!” He would shake his fist at my virtual presence. And he would be right. I’ve tried too many plans to exercise and lose weight to count on both hands. God bless him, he endured quite a bit of ridiculous nonsense from me, and he continues to do so.
Lift heavy weights! Find a weight that you can complete 8-10 repetitions with good form. If you can do more than 10 with good form, you need to increase the weight. Do compound movements, do isolation movements, do pyramid training, drop sets, super sets, circuits. Do it all. But based on the research that I have done, and the changes that I have seen in my body, heavy lifting is the way to go. That said, please do this with proper form. Don’t do a movement that is going to harm your body. Know your limitations. There are some movements that I know I need to do using a lower weight, just because of my form. Seek out a professional. Find out how to do an exercise properly. Bodybuilding.com is an excellent resource if you just want to find out how to do an exercise. They have an extensive database that I use frequently.
Don’t do hours of cardio. Weight lifting keeps your metabolism high by supporting and building your lean muscle mass. Please don’t get me wrong. While I honestly dislike traditional cardio (hence the running comment earlier), I love keeping my weight lifting routines cardiovascular in order to keep my heart healthy. I incorporate cardio in a variety of ways. I might do 10 minutes of HIIT cardio on the bike or other cardio machine. I might do some active rests in between lifting sets, such as jumping jacks, jump squats, high knees, mountain climbers, etc. Anything to get my heart rate up. I might decrease my rest times during my workouts, incorporate circuits, drop the weight and increase the reps, etc. I might do some kettlebell swings in between sets.
Do what you will do. Weight training is not for everyone. But just like I dislike traditional cardio the most, but still incorporate it into my exercise routine for the benefits, so should you also incorporate weight lifting for its benefits. Just two days a week is more beneficial than none. And if you are going to train only one or two days a week, find a good full-body routine. You won’t regret it!