Tag Archives: weightlifting

No Substitute For Self-Care

There’s no way to fool yourself into not being broken down, injured, or tired. Sure, you can give yourself all the pep talks you want, but when you feel like you’re walking on pins and needles, when you’re so tired you can’t even get off the couch, when you have small shooting pains in familiar places, it’s time to take a step back and rest. Rest, damn it. This is your only body, and sometimes, the reset button is broken, so you have to take the cooldown instead to let everything recharge, even if it’s not going to go back to where you want it to be.

Recapping my summer: I progressed well through 6 weeks of New Rules of Lifting for Women. The program calls for a barbell and some gym equipment, but since I don’t have access to much of anything but barbells and bodyweight, I did what I could with the materials I had on hand, and I put out a request on social media to borrow weights. I misplaced my 10-pound dumbbells and had only 2- and 5-pound weights to dink around with. A friend had 15-pound weights and 25-pound weights she let me borrow, but no 10. Another friend let me have her single 10-pound weight. And since this is the summer of being broke, I did what I had to: I tied my 5-pound weights together with a shoelace and lifted for a while with that. GOOD ENOUGH.

Sadly, my feet began hurting not terribly long after this. Contributing factors include taking on a role at my part-time job where I walk around the building quite a bit more, and the shabby shoes I’ve made work over the last several months are showing their fit issues, their age, and their quality at last, and the result was aching feet. As someone who let a broken foot go untreated years ago, I was not about to go down that road again and decided to take some time off from lifting. It was time for my rest week anyway, which I took advantage of quite gladly. Sadly for me, the rest week has turned into more than a month of not lifting weights.

However, there is a silver lining: my guts healed enough that I could run again, and it didn’t happen until I had been working on my core through NROLFW for those six weeks. Should I directly credit lifting weights with closing up the hole and helping me to be able to run again without abdominal pain? There is strong enough circumstantial evidence that I will take it on face value and call it good enough.

We had a temperate July, all things considered, to the point that I had to wear a light jacket to finish mowing the lawn on the fourth of July. This is usually a day of sweat, sunscreen, and humid warmth. It turned out to be a day I took the dogs for a nice cool walk in the mid-afternoon, and it was downright chilly in the afternoon shade. With all the great weather, plus a purchase of obnoxiously bright and wonderful new shoes (and some awesome free socks and new sports bras), I went for a lot of walks that sometimes turned out to be walk/run events.

I started tracking on four apps at once: Charity Miles, to donate to Feeding America; WoofTrax, to donate to my local animal shelter, Runkeeper; and MapMyRun. I have been getting inconsistent distance readings from one app to the next, so I like to multi-track to get a more accurate average. For instance, today, my apps disagreed by 0.3-0.4 miles. That’s a huge difference.

I’ve also been tracking small walks on the Charity Miles app in an effort to get a free t-shirt and support Team Red, White & Blue and the Wounded Warrior Project. The app is issuing more small challenges that scale up where participants can earn prizes from corporate sponsors for tracking a set number of days for particular charities. If nothing else, it’s a great daily reminder to work out, even if just a little bit.

My weight is still not in a place where I want it to be, and my stomach in particular is not where I want it to be – it’s making wearing some of my cute pants less possible, as some pairs cut into my gut in a way that they didn’t used to. I recently discovered that my favorite diet soda (I know, I shouldn’t be drinking any diet soda, I know! Jeez!) has concentrated orange juice as a main ingredient, and a diabetic woman who pointed this out to me said it messed with her sugar levels. She says this is the only diet soda she drinks that affects her; others that have plenty of caffeine do not affect her in the same way at all. While I’m not diabetic, and my doctor never diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, I have been watching my sugar for going on three years now, and Alzheimer’s and diabetes are in my genetic destiny, and I need to remember that even the diet “cheats” that I think are safe are only ok in moderation. I’m bad at moderation. So I’m going to cut back drastically and see how I can diversify my natural treats and go back to drinking diet tea and water instead. I’m discouraged, though. It feels like I’ve strayed from my original path, and it’s even harder to get back into good eating habits than it was to make them in the first place.

Finally, I am really getting old. I push mowed the lawn the other day. The yard is fairly large, and the grass was wet, so it was hard work, and it took me 3 hours to finish (I took plenty of breaks, too). I wound up with bruised palms, muscle soreness all over my body, a slightly aggravated ankle, pain in my left pointer finger from lifting the mower to scrape wet grass out from the inside so the blades would spin, and right wrist pain from turning the mower. And my feet hurt like hell the next day after I stood around at my retail job, then took the dogs for a walk. Even my magic new sneakers couldn’t save me from hurting myself.

Getting rest, making sure to eat before undertaking big physical efforts, resting body parts that hurt, and remembering I’m not as invincible as I think I am or want to be seem to be the only ways to age gracefully while maintaining some amateur level of fitness. But this is why I continue to work out: so that when I’m older, I’ll still be mobile enough to take my dogs for walks, to enjoy being out in nature, and to live independently as long as possible.

Pin on the Map of Summer 2014

I’ve not updated my blog in a while, so I’m going to do a little check up to see what’s new with me!

1. I’m still eating mostly Paleo. I had some lapses over vacation that undid some of my progress – not a lot, but enough to piss me off to where I doubled down my efforts and have gotten back to near my plateau weight again.

1a. Foods that I’m trying to cut out of my life a little more: starchy sweet potatoes and bananas. I love sweet potatoes, but I’m going to be transitioning back to carrots and sweet peas for lunch, and though I was glad to discover my body could once again handle bananas several years out from my gallbladder surgery, I discovered that my weight started to creep up again when I had so much starch in my life.

2. Running is still off the table for a while as I wait for my body to heal. I did a walk/run two weeks ago, and while it wasn’t as painful as an attempt in March, I decided that I was really pushing my luck. I don’t want to really hurt myself just because I think I’m invincible.

3. I started playing with a hula hoop about a month ago. I am not consistent in using it, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

4. I also picked back up my copy of the book New Rules of Lifting for Women, which is a good progressive set of strength workouts. I have some of my old printed workout charts in the book still, and they tell me the last time I worked out with the program was April 2011. So it’s been a long time. I don’t have access to a gym anymore, but I do have dumbbells, and the first set of exercises does include dumbbell workouts for alternative exercises. I’ve been doing those. I forgot how much DOMS hurts. I forgot how much squats can suck if you haven’t done them for a long time. But it’s muscle ache, not body pain, so I’m glad to not have hurt myself trying to do too much, too soon. I’m in my 30s, and my body isn’t going to bounce back the way it used to do.

Restarting At Zero

A while back, I strained my shoulder while lifting weights. I lifted too much too quickly, and I didn’t give my long-term injury enough time to heal, or enough build-up to what I was trying to do.

I’m not in serious trouble with the law offices of Left Shoulder and Buttkick; I can still lift my arm above my head just fine, I can still wear my bras, and it doesn’t hurt when I shrug. But I can feel soreness again, an all-too-familiar pain, when I have carried something that was too heavy.

So it’s time to start building up my strength again and stretching those ligaments and muscles. This is my “Super excited to be shackled to this routine again” face. But like I said, this isn’t me trying to talk my arm into moving normally again; now, I’m just building up strength and stamina. And it’s been far too long since I stuck to an exercise routine.

Last fall, while I was doing at-home physical therapy workouts 2-3 times a week, I was also pretty good about throwing in walks, pilates, and other kinds of workouts on the other days, giving myself one or two rest days a week. This routine gave me stamina and strength, but it wasn’t really budging the scale, mostly because my diet was still crappy.

There’s nothing more boring, though, when you’re not aching for physical relief, than holding a stretch for several seconds. I had 7 exercises of stretches to do, each 5 sets of 15-20 second holds, and as I lay on the floor this evening with my elbow perpendicular to my body, pushing my forearm arm down parallel to my body, and holding that gentle push for 20 seconds, I thought, “Oh, my god. I am never going to get through these.” There aren’t that many? Yeah, I know! But doing them twice per day? You mean, I have to exert myself? The horror.

Doing the wall push-ups isn’t so bad, as there’s a lot of coordination involved in keeping me upright enough, pushing off, breathing out when I push, all that crap. There isn’t time for my mind to wander, and my sets are counted with completed push-ups, not arbitrary seconds that I can shave or bloat based on how quickly I count. Not so when I’m sitting in a chair trying to read my screen as I pull my head slightly forward, wondering how long I can take sitting there before my pose is over and I can finally scroll down the screen.

Cartoon of a woman struggling to get through timed physical therapy stretches.

Resolute stretching: “I am going to get through this, damn it. Why do we never vacuum this stupid rug! The dog is licking my knee!!! …Oh, hey, set’s over.”

I’m a quiet, patient person, and I can contentedly sit in silence letting my mind wander if there’s the leisure to do so. I’m the only person I know who can go on long road trips with nothing but occasional radio to keep her company; letting my brain chew on threads of thoughts and digest others without the interruption of distraction is something I rather enjoy. When I have uninterrupted periods of idleness, I can adapt much more easily to doing nothing than if my concentration lasts only 20 seconds before I have to move. These exercises I’m doing are small oases that I don’t have time to appreciate, little meditations on the value of taking recovery slow, but I occupy my space, get into my position, and count down the seconds, anticipating the change and wanting to be done already.

I should be more grateful that I have the tools to repair myself, that my body is adaptable enough, and that I’ve had medical advice to get me back to where I want to be, and all I have to do is exert myself just a little, no matter how boring.

It’s going to be worth an hour’s worth of staring at the carpet to not have to worry that the longer I ignore the twinge in my arm from sleeping on the affected shoulder, the more likely it is that my injury is going to slowly creep back into my life and make it incrementally harder to move that joint and more painful to do everyday activities. I have to take it slow. I have to make myself take it slow, and make myself take the slow route of careful, measured steps toward increased strength. There’s no fix besides effort, so like it or not, I have to suck it up and get it done.

I’ll probably give this recovery, if I can sustain the necessary energy to continue with my stretches and some exercises, till the end of the summer, then go to my doctor and get a recommendation as to whether I can start lifting weights again. I might even consult my old physical therapist to seek his advice.

My life has been drastically improved by seeking help for my injuries and sticking with a recovery program of physical therapy and rest. I will honor the time, money, and energy I’ve spent so far on making myself better by continuing to take care of this body as best as I can.

Fret First, Then Plan, Then Do

Wahh. I lifted too much last week, and I can feel it in my shoulder four days later.

I posted a photo of myself after one workout last week. I felt amazing. But after both workouts, I was also tired. Thursday’s lifting session was done early; I’ve been trying to work out only twice a week with 2-3 days between workouts, but I had prior commitments that made me work out Tuesday and Thursday. And Thursday’s session kicked my ass. I lifted to failure on the last set of two of my exercises and maybe I should have taken that as a sign to stop earlier than I did.

Fret:  My previously borked shoulder, for which I did months of physical therapy, is making it known that I bit off more than I could chew. I need to take it easy. The joint is not painful, but I can feel a little discomfort when I make large movements to test it out.

Plan:  I ought to work up to a barbell strength program slowly. It would make sense to get back into my physical therapy workout, modify it to be slightly more strenuous, and move forward until I am more secure in my strength, then test myself.

Though this realization of forced slowness feels a little like a defeat, at the same time, it is a sharp reminder that I’ve got to take precautions to avoid reinjury, and that even though I mended once, I’m not suddenly invincible, no matter how invincible I feel after a workout.

Do:  I’ll post about how it works out.

A cartoon of a woman glaring at her aching shoulder, which is mocking her.

Fun fact: anthropomorphized achy shoulders can only be silenced by hot or cold therapy. Sourced from Wikipedia, so you know this is verified.

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Already Been Broughten

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Thanks, “Not Another Teen Movie,” for welding that into my mind for the rest of my life. I do look like I’m about to challenge Michael Jackson in the “Bad” video, though.

Happy Post-Weights Workout

Those moments when I am at my computer or on the couch putting off my workout, I need to be reminded of how awesome I feel when I’m done exerting myself.

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Happy post-workout face: December 28, 2011.

I always feel cheerful and strong after a weights workout. I want to capture those moments post-workout to give me inspiration when I don’t have it, and what better way than with a photo? Here’s to remembering why it’s worth it to push yourself: the feeling of accomplishment as you wipe the sweat off your brow and take a long drink of cold water before heading home.

Ladylike lifting

An iPhone conversation, joking about a quaint deadlifting society for proper ladies

The first rule of PLDNS is that acronyms are stupid.

With much less trouble and much more satisfaction than I thought was possible, I completed Workout “A” from Stage One of the New Rules of Lifting for Women program on Tuesday of this week.

Some of the moves were versions of exercises I already do as part of my physical therapy; one was only slightly more difficult due to lifting 30 pounds of plate rather than tugging on an elastic band. Others were easier versions of what I already do; two sets of 15 push-ups at a 60-degree incline don’t seem so bad when you’ve been doing 60-80 wall push-ups two or three times a week for months.

It was a shorter workout than my physical therapy workout, stretched more of my body, and left me glowing and happy.

A woman in gym clothes photographs herself in a mirror holding a book and a cell phone.

After that first lifting session, I was queen of the gym. My reign was short, as the kingdom of Gymnasia is both a little dull and a bit smelly.

I drove home from my office feeling great and … wibbly, if that makes sense. Wibbly-wobbly. My legs and arms didn’t really want to work, and I was a little light-headed. “Gee,” I thought. “I hope I don’t have to pay attention to driving home!” Happily for everyone, there were no sudden stops to make, no lanes to swiftly change, and no exciting car chases in which to engage, and I made it home safely.

The next morning, walking down the stairs at the crack of animals wanting breakfast was painful. So very painful. Argh, my quads. My butt. My life. Why did I do this to myself. The only silver lining I could see at the time was that I’d thought to freeze my mud pack so I could ice down my shoulder to reduce the next-morning shoulder pain. I used DOMS and general laziness as an excuse to skip my workout on Wednesday, for which I gave myself a demerit on my calendar (see November 30th in the image below).

Imagine my surprise when I was still sore all day Thursday, despite a good full-body stretching with Pilates in the morning. I had a friend come into town that day, and while I was fine when we were exploring the Oak Lawn district on foot or taking my dogs for a walk, getting in and out of my car, rising from chairs, and going up the stairs to the little thrift shop close to my old apartment caused me to grunt in pain. I wasn’t trying to whine or be dramatic; I had just turned into a big baby, in stark contrast to the Amazon I felt like on Tuesday night. Happily, I was less sore on Friday, and the soreness was completely gone by Saturday morning.

My calendar has me marked down for just one weightlifting routine per week, but I got my physical therapy days kind of switched around over the weekend. The end result of this schedule juggling was deciding to do Workout “B” from Stage One of New Rules on Saturday. The” B” workout was, for whatever reason, a hell of a lot harder than the “A” workout. Whereas I felt as though I practically floated from set to set on Tuesday, I had to pause and catch my breath 2/3rds of the way through my first set of deadlifts. It might just be that I used too much weight instead of easing back into it, or maybe my muscles were still tired. Whatever the case, it was rough going.

I feel all right immediately after the “B” workout, though – much better than I’d felt after the “A” workout (I wasn’t all shaky on the way home, for one thing). I iced my shoulder again just in case. My right calf, which had started to twinge after I sat on it funny on Friday, was sore before my workout Saturday, though that was mitigated by a 5-minute warm-up on the treadmill, and is still a tiny bit sore now several hours later.

It’s worth it, though, to feel stronger and better. The effort is paying off. My body is looking slimmer, as I noticed while I worked out in front of the mirror on Friday night, and more people have complimented me on my progress. My face looks thinner in the photo above than in other photos from this year. I feel more physically able, accomplished, and motivated to keep going. Good, tangible, visible results can be so addictive. I hope to stick to the weightlifting, as well as the rest of my exercises, and see my body change even further in the weeks to come.

Three weeks of an exercise calendar with tasks checked off

Calendar at 3 weeks. Not bad!

The 90 Days Goal calendar of doom is such a great tool for helping me keep track of my workouts and keep my mixture of workouts balanced. I’m counting on it keeping me honest about continuing to work out when I come back from a 4-day trip to visit my family. I may have to alter the rest of December to include at least two weightlifting workouts per week, though, as I’m too anxious about getting results to wait an entire week between planned sessions. I just have to make sure I go slowly enough and don’t lift too much, in order to avoid hurting myself in new, exciting ways.

Plus, I am going to scream if I get one more Get-Uninjured-Soon lace doily from my friends at the Proper Ladies Deadlifting and Needlework Society; my walls are practically covered in barbell-embroidered spiderwebs. Hasn’t someone told them about e-cards?