I am a runner. Not in the sense that I run a lot, although I do sometimes. I am a runner in the sense that I am always going. I run face first into my way of eating, my exercise routine, my business. I move fast, I get shit done. No matter what anyone has to say about me, they certainly can’t accuse me of being lazy. I am productive as fuck.
As I mentioned last week, my end-of-Summer cold forced me to be productive about getting well, as opposed to dominating in the blog-o-sphere and the weight room. For many, many days (okay, five) I was forced to go really slow. I slept a lot. I worked minimally. I moved around like a blanket wrapped sloth. GOD, it was annoying.
In my slowness, I got depressed. I have moved from task to task quickly for about four months, rarely taking days off. I have felt AWESOME in the gym and in my personal life. I have felt light, happy, and accomplished, but I can see now that that was somewhat conditional. To watch my good mood come crashing down at the first sign of illness shocked me, and then I realized: who you become when shit kind of sucks is really good insight into who you are.
While I got well, I spent a little time getting to know myself better. I acknowledged that productivity and accomplishment IS great and it IS gratifying, but it does not inherently change who I am, or dissolve the ability to get sad. If I can only be happy when I’m working, well, then I can’t truly be happy. My goal for this week of slow was to build myself up enough to eventually be okay not doing a damn thing. It kind of worked (I’m outta my funk for now and feeling strong again!) but I am well aware that it will be an ongoing process.
Maybe I should block off some “go slow” time in my calendar.
And now the workouts:
Monday: slow walk around Lake Merritt, which is about 5 miles.
Tuesday: another slow stroll around the lake
Wednesday: 5 sets 5 of what I would consider a medium weight deadlift of 135 lbs. This was pretty far from my regular max effort, but holy shit did it tax me.
Thursday: Feeling a little better! Planned to go on a lake walk again, and got inspired so about ½ of it was a run.
Friday: 5 sets of 5 box squats. (This is like a back squat, but at the bottom you sit on a box for a second, thus destroying your momentum and making everything harder). I used 115 pounds.
Then: 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 10 pistols, 10 push ups, and a 100M sandbag run. I used a 20 pound sound bag and got 8 rounds.
Saturday: Major rest day. I had to wake up at 4:30AM to do some work for KeVita, and was just toast by the time I got off at 2:00PM. Lots of napping and eating on Saturday.
Sunday: Kett and I did the workout “DT” together, and it was crushing. DT is 5 rounds for time of 12 deadlifts, 9 hang cleans, and 6 push jerks. I used a 70 lb. bar and it took me 13:35. OW, my dudes. OW.
While I am well aware that this might not seem like a down week for some, it DEFINITELY was for me. I feel much better this week and am excited to get back to my regular routines!
Sometimes you have to make an animated GIF of yourself doing a dumbbell snatch in a hotel gym. That’s a fact I learned this week.
Good Morning! I’m back to talk about my last few workouts with you today! As you may recall, the goal of my workouts this week was to incorporate more weight lifting, as last week was cardio dense, with no real rhyme or reason. This week I was awesome at meeting that goal, and pretty great at just getting active at all, especially considering the fact that I was traveling.
I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with exercise in the past couple of weeks, how I used to do it because I thought I had to, and how I used it to disconnect from my body and to fight it. Things have changed for me and my exercise, SO deeply. It was great to be in the gym all last week and with every lift and sprint, I felt deeply connected to my body, like it was a miracle to have strength after what I put my body through in my early 20’s, and like my opportunity to sweat was something that filled me with gratitude.
Every step is a gift. Every opportunity to tap into my body with sweat is something I earned through eating enough to fuel myself, and relentlessly fighting the shithead in my brain that has told me I am not good enough. I am super happy to be on my body’s team.
I got really deep with my body this week. It’s a good place to be.
So, enough talk. here are the workouts.
Monday: 20 rep 95 pound backsquat, then 20 Push Press, 20 Power Cleans, 20 Overhead Squats, 20 Deadlifts, 20 Front Squats with 3 burpees at the top of every minute- for time. I got 11:55 and used 55 pounds for my weight.
Tuesday: Hmm. I worked out Tuesday, I know I did. I just cannot for the life of me remember what I did. DAMNIT. I think it involved backsquats!
Wednesday: 5 reps of 5 deadlifts at 135 pounds. 1 mile run. 21-15-9 weighted russian twists, mountain clumbers, weighted sit ups, and push ups. I used a 30 pound weight.
Thursday: Rest day!
Friday: Yet another rest day! I left at breakfast, traveled by train, shuttle, airplane, another airplane, and another shuttle and arrived in beautiful Santa Fe around dinner time. I was greeted by a gaggle of people I haven’t seen in just about forever (more people should get married, it’s a totally convenient way to get all your friends scattered across the nation in one spot for a vegan dinner) and dove into a sweet potato and lentil shepherd’s pie before sleeping the sleep of Lacy Davis during any movie ever (which is to say I fell asleep immediately, and slept soundly).
Saturday: One mile run. 21-15-9 reps of the dumbbell clean & jerk (30 pounds) and sit ups, with a 400 meter run in between each set.
Sunday: Tabatas! Goblet squats (30 pound dumbbell), sit ups, tricep dips, dumbbell snatches (30 pounds) and shuttle sprints. That work out was probably my favorite one of the crop. Super excellent.
You are amazing.
I have never been what you might call a graceful person.
I love running, cycling, dancing, and yoga, but it takes some amount of effort for me to not fall on my ass when doing these things. (Also, there seems to be a direct correlation between how much I run and how often I’m injured. Anyone want to help me with that? SURE YOU DO.)
Despite spending years exercising until there wasn’t a single ounce of joy left in my workouts, I chronically hated my body. Some days, I donned my 24 Hour Fitness steed and thought “Am I going to have to do this every day for the rest of my life?” and the thought made me bawl. My body wasn’t “improving” the way I wanted it to, and I wasn’t getting that excited mental rush either. It seemed to me that I was the one person immune to the effects of exercise.
Luckily, my friend Ramsey started talking about CrossFit and I started Googling strength training. Before I ever lifted a barbell, I had something I hadn’t had in a long time: hope.
Strength training was the key to unlocking a lot for me. It unlocked a tangible way to measure my improvement as an athlete. (No matter how much I ran, I never really got any faster, so the mile PR was more of a mockery than a goal in my case.) It unlocked a new way to think about food and how it fueled me. It unlocked my body’s potential, both physically and aesthetically, and it unlocked something I had never had with other forms of exercise: natural talent. My big booty is built to lift.
A year into my weight training journey my body had drastically changed, and not in a way that I enjoyed. It grew and grew and grew and grew until I barely recognized myself anymore and it both startled and embarrassed me. I wanted to quit because I hated what seemed to be happening to my body as a result of weight training, but for whatever reason I decided I would wait another year. “If two years into doing this I still hate my CrossFit body, I’ll quit” I told myself, and then I kept lifting.
I am just now approaching that two-year mark and God, am I glad I waited. I love my body these days, like 96% of the time, and for a person that literally wanted to die at the thought of weight gain five years ago, I would say that is a tremendous and miraculous change. I know that this is from the result of a perspective shift (this work to reclaim a positive body image and raise my self esteem has been relentless and it has paid off) but also there’s science there. Let me explain.
I came to weight training from a background of exercise, but I actually had very little muscle (except in my calves, which have always been tremendously ripped for no apparent reason) and a fair amount of body fat. Once I started putting on muscle mass, I kind of just grew, without seeing any more definition for quite some time.
When I started lifting I was also in a process of repairing a deeply damaged relationship with food. I had consistently under eaten for many years, and when I started lifting that didn’t feel like an option any more. Once I was eating a reasonable amount for a person of my height and activity level, my body clung to calories like my life depended on it- probably because it did.
After about sixteen months of eating the food and lifting the weights things began to shift for me physically. My body seemed to trust that I would give it enough food and stopped holding onto weight in the same clingy way. (For a freaked-out former anorexic, let’s just say it was a really difficult 16 months). My metabolism started to run more efficiently, and the constant digestive troubles that I had experienced began to fade.
They say that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns on a regular basis. My experience is that this is true, but that it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Initially, I was building muscle without necessarily diminishing body fat. As I ate consistently and continued to lift heavy my metabolic engine revved and I started to burn more body fat throughout the day. Now, when I look in the mirror, I can see that. It feels great.
Weight training has taught me a lot about patience and a lot about trust.
I no longer feel like exercise doesn’t work for my body, and I no longer believe that my body is trying to betray me in some way. I have learned that I cannot lift heavier until I get my form correct. I have learned that I need to work hard, but that I don’t need to feel like I am going to die after every workout.
I learned that exercise should be about using my body for joy. I don’t do anything because I “have” to anymore. I do it because I want to, and that’s a gift to my body. The natural motivation that springs from that is my body’s gift to me.
When I started writing this article I wanted it to be a guide to strength training for beginners. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that my journey was very specific, with trainers that I trust 100% and who I go to for advice time and time and time again, even after two years. I think it’s a great idea to have a coach, or at least someone to check your form now and again (a trainer, a friend who also lifts, etc.) BUT! I understand that is not everyone’s style or within the realm of everyone’s financial scope. In the absence of trainers I highly recommend that beginners check out Nia Shanks’ website. She has workout plans, instructional videos, and LOTS of advice for people who want to start weight training. She is body positive, and super thorough. Beyond that, my trainers suggest Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe, Stronglifts, and for Olympic lifting help (my favorite!) Catalyst Athletics has some good resources online. Get to it and good luck!