Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday Workout

Felt a bit stiff in the legs, probably from the squats yesterday or possibly the ballet. But I persevered.

Since yesterday was a kettlebell-fest, I decided to stick with mostly bodyweight stuff today:

Circuit 3x:

6 jump squats
pullups to fatigue (I got about 5 or 6 each set)
8 jump lunges each side
8 spiderman pushups each side
8 1-leg SB curls
TRX body rows to fatigue (about 20 each set)
6 burpees

Circuit 3x:
TRX plank, 30 sec.
15 TRX jackknifes
side planks, 30 sec. each side
SB x-body mountain climbers, feet on the ball, 8 each side

This was adapted from a Craig Ballantyne Turbulence Training workout. I wanted to throw in some TRX stuff because it's such a great tool and I haven't been making as much use of it lately as I should.

The workout as written called for 5 minutes of bodyweight squats as a finisher, but I just wasn't feeling it today. Also I didn't want to prefatigue my legs too much before ballet. Yeah, that's the ticket. Didn't want to prefatigue the ol' leggies :)

Tomorrow, more kettlebells. I'm rereading Enter The Kettlebell, trying to clean up my cleans and troubleshoot my snatches. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My schedule kinda went sideways today ...

but I got in a workout anyway although it wasn't quite what I'd been planning to do.

I began with kettlebell clean & press/pullup ladders. Since my only choices of weight for the clean & press were 20 lbs and 30 lbs I opted for the heavier weight and only did three rungs to the ladder. On thinking it over, a better option might've been to do cleans only and try for a little more volume, but whatever.

After completing 3 ladders I moved on to swings, again with 30 lbs. The idea was to get as many swings as possible in 5 minutes. I wasn't able to work continuously for the entire 5 minutes, but I still managed to complete 155 swings.

Then I felt like doing some windmills to overhead squats. For those I went down to 20 lbs and really focused on form and full range of motion in the squats. Again, I did these ladder style, starting with 5 reps per side and working my way down to 1.

After that I practiced Turkish getups for a little while, again with 20 lbs.

And that was that for me, until ballet class anyway.

Why do I have this feeling it's only a matter of time before Beachbody starts selling a "KettleBallet Bootcamp" DVD series? I would actually totally buy such a product, but only if it starred "Irontamer" Dave Whitley or maybe Pavel himself. In pink tights :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

More kettlebell fun

Today I did 5 rounds of the following:

clean & press ladders, 5 rungs to the ladder, with 12 kg.
hand to hand swings, 30x12 kg.

So, 300 reps/3600 kg (almost 8,000 lbs) moved over the course of the workout, which took around 20 minutes to complete.

My form on the cleans still isn't quite what it should be. I need to work on keeping my wrist straight instead of letting it flop over. There's a kettlebell workshop I'm planning to attend on the 9th of May that I'm hoping will help. I need some in-person coaching!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Turbulence Training-inspired workout

Jet lag caught up with me yesterday, so no workout. Well, it wasn't just jet lag: we also had to swing by the vet's office to pick up Moose's personal effects and make arrangements for her cremation, and I sort of lost it when I saw her little leopard mouse toy lying forlornly in her carrier. It's a shame it's not biodegradable--otherwise I would leave it where her ashes will be scattered. Well, it's okay. There will be lots of leopard mice at Rainbow Bridge :) And she'll get to see Wednesday and Puggsley again. I know I'm being totally sickeningly mawkish here, and I promise to stop soon.

No, I don't.

Okay, the workout. It's basically Workout B from the April 2009 Turbulence Training workout du mois, tweaked a little to make it more kettlebell friendly:

superset: KB 1-arm clean to press to overhead squat, 3x8x12 kg; KB 1-arm row, 3x20x12 kg

superset: Front-loaded Bulgarian ss, 3x8x12 kg (KB held by horns at chest height); SB plank rollouts, 3x10xBW

superset: 1-leg SB leg curls, 3x8xBW; DB side plank lateral raise, 3x10x5

superset: KB squat thrust sumo deads, 3x10x12 kg; KB swings, 3x20x12 kg

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baby dolphin!!

Okay, not workout-related. But damn cute!

Home again!

I did have time for one last workout yesterday morning before we left Maui. Again, it was a Turbulence Training-style superset thingy:

superset: DB overhead squat, 3x10x20's; DB 1-arm row, 3x6x40

superset: DB front-loaded Bulgarian ss, 3x8x20; DB bench press, 3x8x35's

superset: MB side lunge woodchops, 3x12x8 MB crunches on SB, 3x15x8

finisher: 9 pushups/1 burpee=> 1 pushup/9 burpees

Today, back to the kettlebells and clean(er) eating. I actually do okay with my eating when I'm on vacation since I genuinely prefer "lighter" food: fruits, salads, Asian cuisine, etc. It's the drinking that's my downfall. Bet you couldn't have guessed!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Whale Watch Wednesday and Back-On-Track Thursday

Wednesday was that rare thing for me: a complete rest day. Not that much actual resting occurred since we had to be up bright and early for a whalewatching trip. Which, by the way, was totally worth it and definitely the high point of the trip for me. Hell, it may have been the high point of the decade for me :) About an hour into it we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of wild bottlenose dolphins, one of which was only a baby. Cutest thing I've seen in years. It stuck close to mama's side, doing everything she did. Just a perfect little miniature dolphin from its teeny-tiny flukes to its stubby little bottle-nose.

So, no workout. Also, no sunburn even though we were out on the boat for hours. Vanicream SPF 60 rocks!

I hit the resort fitness center with renewed enthusiasm today. No, I didn't. I mean, I worked out and all, but not enthusiastically. I started with a dumbbell complex:

15 squats
15 overhead presses
15 bent-over rows
15 lunges each side
15 mountain climbers each side

I did that 3x, using 15 lbs for all sets

Then I did a "12 days of Christmas" ladder:

1 tuck jump
2 pullups
3 burpees
4 jump lunges
5 pike pushups
6 skater hops
7 box jumps
8 walking lunges
9 decline pushups
10 SB roll-ins
11 jump squats
12 spiderman pushups

That was mostly it. I also walked on the treadmill for a bit, and did a little core work.

In other news I had 3 mai tais yesterday. I wonder if I dare attempt some sort of tropical beverage ladder today. No, I think not.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Keeping consistent with the workouts

Monday I did a Turbulence Training-style superset thing followed by tabata intervals on the dreadmill:

superset: pullups, 3x6; DB incline press, 3x8x30's

superset: DB stepups, 3x8x??; cable pulldowns, 3x8x??

superset: DB RDL, 3x10x???; pushups using DB's as handles, 3xfatigue

treadmill: 20 sec. hard, 10 sec easy 8x, then walking on an incline for another 10 minutes just because

Today I did superset ladders, starting with 10 reps of each exercise and working my way down to 1.

superset 1: DB cleans with 20 lbs/ pushups

superset 2: DB thrusters/renegade rows, each with 15 lbs

superset 3: inchworms/incline reverse crunches

The idea here was just to get through it as fast as possible. The first few sets seemed to take forever, but once I was down to 5 and 5 it seemed not so bad.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday workout and a poem

First the workout:

Treadmill intervals: 45 sec. 8.5-9 mph/90 sec. 4.5 mph 6x


superset: hanging leg raises, 3x8; SB skiers; 3x12

superset: SB rollouts, 3x10; SB x-body mountain climbers, 3x8 per side

superset: SB crunches, 3x15x8 lb med ball; planks, arms on SB, 3x30 sec.

Now the poem:

Ten miles to Haiku
Town on the road to Hana
Inspires bad poem :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday superset workout, and some sad news

The sad news first: my Siamese, Moose, passed on last night. It was by no means unexpected; she was almost 19 and in late stage renal failure, and pretty clearly didn't have long to live even with daily subcutaneous hydration. When we dropped her off at the animal hospital where we were having her boarded, we knew there was a pretty fair chance we wouldn't be seeing her again. Even so, I still haven't quite absorbed the news properly. She was 6 weeks old when she came into my life, just a tiny scrap of a thing with the biggest blue eyes you ever saw and vocal cords to match. I don't think it will seem real until I'm home and Moose ... isn't.

Paul and I haven't done much of anything since we got the news. Just as well we'd already hit the fitness center ... exercise is wonderful for anxiety and depression, but even knowing that I'm not sure I'd have had the discipline to make myself exercise if I'd heard about Moose first.

Anyway, here's what it was:

superset: DB chest press, 3x8x35's; Bulgarian split squat, 3x12xBW

superset: DB 1-arm row: 3x8x35; squat, 3x20xBW

superset: DB RDL: 3x10x35's; SB jackknives; 3x15xBW

HIIT: treadmill intervals at 15% incline: 30 sec. at 6 mph/30 sec. at 4 mph 6x plus 3 min. warmup and cooldown.

Vacation fitness and pre-tox update

Turns out the hotel gym does have a pullup station included with the cable cross-extension machine. So, my Friday workout was an old favorite: 3 pullups, 10 decline pushups, 30 swings (performed with a dumbbell). I did about 10 rounds.

I'd actually been planning to run intervals on the treadmill, but of course every cardio machine in the place was in use. Whatever. What I did was better, I'm sure.

Later, Paul and I hiked Haleakala Crater. It's an amazing place. Almost a lunar landscape, only sunblasted and rust-red instead of luminous white.

Very little drinking occurred--just a glass of wine with dinner. I will try to do better (worse?) today.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yesterday I got on a treadmill for the first time in months.

I wasn't planning to work out, but DH wanted to do a little something to shake off the jet lag so I decided to keep him company.

The fitness center at the resort where we're staying on Maui turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It's hardly state-of-the-art, but for a hotel gym it's not bad at all. You know what those things are usually like: a treadmill or two, a couple stationary bikes, an elliptical, and maybe one of those universal weight thingys, all about on a par with what you might buy for your home if you had the room, the budget and the inclination. Well, this one has all the aforementioned cardio equipment, but the quality is actually up to gym standards, and there are actually some free weights as well as machines. Also a couple of stability balls and a rack of medicine balls. No squat rack, no barbells, no pullup/dip station and of course no kettlebells, but still more than enough to get by on for the next week or so, and certainly way more than I was expecting!

I generally DO work out when I'm on vacation, but usually at "recovery week" intensity, and I tend to make it up on the spur of the moment based on what equipment is available to me and how much I drank the evening before. (I didn't just say that, and you didn't read it:))

Anyhoo, here's what I did yesterday on and off the treadmill:

Treadmill warmup: walking 4-4.5 mph, 4 min

run 1 min 8-8.5 mph
20 squats
run 1 min 8-8.5 mph
20 pushups
run 1 min 8-8.5 mph
20 lunges
run 1 min 8-8.5 mph
20 mountain climbers

Repeat 2x

Then I did some core work on the stability ball, and finished with a plunge in the pool.

The plan for today is a dumbbell complex:

8 squat presses
8 reverse lunges
8 bent-over rows
8 deadlifts
8 close-grip pushups, using the dumbbells as handles

Repeat 8x :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Filthy Fifty upper body workout--push focused

Bench press, 50x75
DB rear delt raise, 50x10's
Flat DB press, 50x30's
DB side plank lateral raise, 50x5's
Incline DB press, 50x25's
Renegade row, 50x12's

I also taught my cycling class and ran around like a chicken with my head cut off doing last minute errands and packing.

My plan for the next 10 days is to prepare my body for a very thorough detox beginning April 25th. I will accomplish this by ingesting foul tropical concoctions to failure while supine on the beach :)

It won't be easy, but I think I'm up to the task.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Deadlift Monday

I ended up being really conservative with my weight selection today. Stressed and distracted is not a good way to go into a deadlift workout, but I didn't want to skip it because I really want to put this rotation to bed before leaving for Hawaii on Wednesday.

It was that one where I do 4 sets of 8, with 20 reps of a bodyweight exercise (squats, pushups, lunges, mountain climbers) as "active rest" between each superset.

superset: sumo deads, 4x8x95 (wtf? but that's where I was today so whatever); jump squats, 4x8x20

superset: RDL, 4x8x85; front-loaded Bss 4x8x20

superset: snatch grip deads 4x8x85; 1-leg squats, 4x8xBW

Family stuff is giving me fits, and I'm super worried about Moose. She's so listless, and we're at the point now where she really needs to be hydrated daily. I'm hating the idea of leaving her. I know the animal hospital will take excellent care of her in our absence, and if it comes to it they won't let her suffer needlessly. Emotionally, I guess we're prepared for "that call" if it comes, but I hate the idea of her dying surrounded by strangers, even caring ones. Hopefully she'll remain stable at least until we get back from our trip.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pull-focus workout with some kettlebell fun thrown in

5 sets, variable reps as follows:

superset: pullups, 10 band assisted, 8 band assisted but with 8 lbs of added weight, 4 regular, 10 band assisted with 8 lbs added weight, 8 regular; pike pushups, 10 with feet elevated 14 inches, 8 with feet elevated 18 inches, 4 with feet elevated 24 inches, 10 with feet elevated 18 inches, 8 with feet elevated 24 inches

superset, bb rows, 10x65, 8x75, 4x85, 10x75, 8x85; close-grip pushups, 10, 8 with feet elevated 14 inches, 4 with feet elevated 18 inches, 10 with feet elevated 14 inches, 8 with feet elevated 18 inches.

superset: db rows, 10x25, 8x30, 4x35, 10x30, 8x35; t-pushups, 10xBW, 8x5 lb db, 4x8lb db; 10x5 lb db; 8x8 lb db

then to finish, the following kettlebell circuit, which I more or less ripped off from way-cool fitness pro Sarah Rippel of Outside the Box Training (

swings, 30x12 kg (was supposed to be 20 swings with 16 kg, but I don't have a 16 kg kb. I pretty clearly need one, though. Is it bizarre that I'm thinking of asking Paul for that as my anniversary present? Rhetorical question.)
cleans, 10 each side x 12 kg
clean & press, 10 each side x 8 kg
snatch, 10 each side x 8 kg
snatch, 5 each side x12 kg

I did that 3 times, with no rest between exercises except to switch out weights, and about 60
seconds rest between circuits.

Then I did a 90-minute "power clean" of my house :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday squat workout

GVT, decreasing rest periods, yadda yadda yadda. This time I spiced things up by sticking in some heavy kettlebell swings after completing all five sets of each superset.

So, here's how it went:

superset 1: BB back squat, 5x5x125; DB 1-leg RDL, 5x5x20

KB swings, 20 sec on, 10 sec rest 4x, 24 kg (!) bell

Superset 2: BB front squat, 5x5x95, DB Bss, rear leg on SB, 5x5x20

KB swings, 15 sec. on, 15 sec off 4x, 24 kg (!) bell

Superset 3, BB overhead squat, 5x5x65; 1 leg SB hip extension & curl, 5x5xBW

KB swings, 15 sec. on, 15 sec off 4x, 24 kg (!) bell

Unpleasantness: bodyweight squats 20 sec., squat hold 10 sec. , 10x

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kettlebells Go Mainstream On "The Biggest Loser" ...

if by "going mainstream" you mean, "being grossly misused."

In fairness, Jillian Michaels got it totally right about kettlebells being a wonderful tool for muscle conditioning and fat loss. In his article "The Hierarchy of Fat Loss" the activity Alwyn Cosgrove rates as being absolutely number one for improving body composition is what he calls "metabolic resistance training"--resistance training that's structured in such a way as to elevate your heart rate sky high and promote post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) while at the same time conditioning your muscles so that you don't lose lean mass even though you're in calorie deficit mode. Well, kettlebell training is the ultimate in metabolic resistance training, as anyone knows who's ever sweated through a heart-pounding session of swings, cleans and snatches.

So, that part was good, and if more people are inspired to try kettlebells because of "The Biggest Loser" I tend to regard that as a good thing.

As long as they don't do what Jillian did. There was nothing good about that. Whatsoever. Okay, I take that back. There's actually nothing inherently unsafe about a healthy person picking up a 10 lb kettlebell, doing a squat, and then performing a front raise. Squats are valid. Front raises are valid, at least if your anterior delts need the extra help, which they probably don't. 10 lbs is a reasonable weight for a woman to be using for a front raise if she's not strong. BUT IT'S NOT A SWING, which is what Jillian claimed it was.

The whole point of a swing is that you're generating power at the hips to bring the weight up. The glutes are the most powerful muscles in the body, and the swing is all about harnessing their power through a rapid, forceful contraction that creates full extension at the hip joint. Upper body strength is irrelevant for the most part. The muscles in the upper torso do come into play, but as stabilizers not prime movers, much as they do during a deadlift. In fact, when I was learning to swing my instructor used kettlebell sumo deadlifts as a preparation exercise to get that very point across.

The other thing my instructor did right, that Jillian did wrong, is that he had me start out with more weight than I would be likely to use on a front raise, just to kinda reinforce the point that I really shouldn't be using my shoulders to raise the weight. If he'd handed me a 10 pound kettlebell like the one Jillian was using, I'm not sure I'd have gotten the idea as quickly. Okay, I probably would've, but only because I've done some Olympic lifting so the concept wasn't completely foreign to me.

Kettlebell purists will probably scream at what I am about to say, but I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with using a kettlebell like a dumbbell or medicine ball or what have you. Okay, I take that back. Please do not attempt to do slams or wall ball shots with a kettlebell. Not unless you're in the midst of a major home renovation project and this is your way of saving on demolition crew costs.

But if you find it more comfortable to hold kettlebells at your sides than dumbbells when you do a lunge or squat, that's fine by me. You'll even get a little extra benefit because you'll likely have to work extra hard to keep your shoulders back and down. But don't think you're "doing kettlebells," because you're really not. You'll get benefits for sure, just as you would with any good traditional workout with free weights. But you won't get anything like the supercharged metabolic conditioning you would if you were using your kettlebells for their intended purpose.

(To use a goofy analogy that probably won't make sense to anyone but me, it'd be like taking a ballet class with pointe shoes on, but never actually coming up on point. It's far from worthless because you're having to work extra hard to balance on the shanks, but it's not pointe work either.)

In summary, I think it's great if more people are inspired to try kettlebells because of what they saw on "The Biggest Loser." But what worries me is that lots of people are going to march out to Target and get some crappy thing with a handle on it that purports to be a kettlebell, then copy Jillian's moves and be disappointed with the results. That's the sort of thing that will give kettlebell training a bad reputation in the long run, and send it back underground faster than it went mainstream.

Edited to add a link to a clip of Jillian doing her thing. Watch and wince!

The "swing" doesn't actually look unsafe to me, just kind of pointless. I mean, really, if that's what you want to do, put down the damn kettlebells, pick up a couple dumbbells, and do thrusters instead. You'll probably be able to go heavier because you won't be relying as much on your anterior delts, and that means a more intense, effective workout.

The "clean & jerk," on the other hand, is just ... well, words fail me, and as you all know, that hardly ever happens. There's no rack apart from whatever girlfriend's got in her shirt, and no double dip unless they all went out for ice cream afterward.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Windmill Wednesday

The title of this post is a bit misleading, as kettlebell windmills were not part of my planned workout for the day. But I ended up doing a couple at the gym because my boss wanted some photographs of trainers working out with kettlebells. So I did a couple windmills, a couple renegade rows, a couple pistols. I was happy about the windmills because I used 30 pounds and my shoulder stayed perfectly stable throughout. That's major for me because of my hyperflexible joints and tendency to be slightly weak throughout my posterior chain. Maintaining scapular retraction and depression is challenging for me, but I can tell I'm improving. So, go me.

Anyway, on to the details of the real workout. This started out as one of those GVT things with decreasing rest periods (60, 45, 30, 15) between supersets

superset: bench press, 5x5x90; DB rear delt raise, 5x5x12

superset: DB incline press, 5x5x30; DB renegade row, 5x5x15

Then I wanted to practice my kettlebell clean & press, so I did them laddered with pullups, 4 rungs to the ladder, 3x. I thought about trying it with 14 kg but ended up using 12 kg because I was feeling a bit fatigued and really wanted to make sure I was using good technique.

Oh, also took ballet class. I did about half en pointe, which in a weird way is helpful for kettlebell training because when you rise up you go through the same process of full extension and lock out at the joints, and that's where your stability comes from. Or maybe what I mean is that the kettlebell training is helpful for the pointe work, because that has gotten better too lately. Anyway, there's definitely a connection that I need to think more about.

Charm City Kettlebells: The Big Event, June 21st, 2009

Charm City Kettlebells: The Big Event, June 21st, 2009

I know at least a few of you are in the mid-Atlantic area and could attend this amazing-sounding kettlebell workshop ( without too much inconvenience. It promises to be a great opportunity to learn from the best.

As I've said before, I think it's possible to learn quite a bit of training technique from books, videos, and so forth. But if/when you get to the point of wanting to incorporate any sort of power lift into your routine, you really ought to get some in-person instruction from a qualified trainer or coach. With kettlebells in particular I think that's the case because of the potential for injury if the lifts are done incorrectly.

I love training with kettlebells, but they're not the only excellent training tool around by any means. You don't need to be working with them to get great results, and if you're not prepared to invest the time in learning how to use them correctly, it'd be safer and more effective in the long run for you to do something else.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

150 Deadlifts, Plus A Question For The Educated Crowd

In slightly under 30 minutes I did:

sumo deads, 50x95 lbs
air squats, 50xbw
RDL. 50x75
Bulgarian split squats, 50xbw
snatch grip deads, 50x65
1-leg squats, 50xBW

Then I taught spinning.

Now I am eating the post-workout meal of the righteous.

Which brings me to my question: Is it true that sugar substitutes such as aspartame and Splenda can cause weight gain by triggering negative hormonal responses in your body? I recently read somewhere online that these artificial sweeteners increase production of fat storing hormones and cause cravings for sweets and refined carbs. Is that correct? Can anyone elaborate?

Monday, April 6, 2009

My "ideal body" timeline

The idea for this post comes from the incomparable, inimitable fitness blogger Skwigg. If you don't know who Skwigg is, you're missing out, and you must go to her site directly. No, I take that back. You must go to her site once you're done here, because if you go to hers first you'll get too absorbed in reading all her fabulous posts, and you'll never make your way back here, and what the hell, I'm fascinating too. Not.

Anyhoo, the first time I recall wanting a body that wasn't my own was when I was about 3 and desperately ill with the chicken pox. It was Christmastime, and the Nutcracker was being broadcast on PBS. My parents had turned it on in the background, and even though I was running a fever of 104 the beautiful music and colorful scenery drew me in immediately. Okay, maybe not the colorful scenery since this was 1965 and all we had was black and white TV, but even so I was hooked. I wanted to be Clara. I wanted to be the Snow Queen. I wanted to be the Sugarplum Fairy. I wanted to wear the pretty dresses and dance on the tips of my toes.

I wanted to look like this:

The photo is of Suzanne Farrell, aged 15, right about the time she was accepted into Balanchine's company. She was sort of the quintessential ballerina of her day, and every little girl in my ballet class wanted to be her.

Unfortunately, by the time I was 15 I was pushing 160 lbs at a height of barely 5'3", and it was fairly obvious that ballet stardom was not destined to be mine.

Nor did I hold out much hope of ever metamorphosing into Farrah Fawcett-Majors, the reigning glamor girl of the era:I don't have the right skintone to achieve a glowing, golden tan, and there is not enough Sun-In in the world to make me California-girl blonde. I know. I tried.

I did, however, manage to achieve thinness by my senior year of high school by eating nothing but iceberg lettuce for nine months. I also drank lots and lots of Tab. If I were a lab rat I would be dead today.

Unfortunately for me times had changed and it was no longer enough simply to be thin. When I was in college the aerobicized form of Jane Fonda was the ideal:
I'm not positive, but I think she may be wearing two pairs of legwarmers in this photo. I wore legwarmers as well. But then, I did a lot of things in the Eighties that I wouldn't necessarily do again, and so did you, so no judgments please :)

The Eighties were also the era of the glamazon supermodel, exemplified by Paulina Porizkova:

I didn't actually aspire to look like Paulina because, well, she's close to 6 feet tall and I am ... not. She and her fellow glamazons didn't inspire me, they just made me feel depressed.

So I decided to just give up on the whole thing and go to law school instead:

That's Sandra Day O'Connor, by the way. She wasn't actually my role model when I was in law school because I was more of a believer in judicial activism in those days, but as the first and in those days the only woman sitting on the Supreme Court I still looked up to her tremendously. Still do, in fact, but that's a subject for elsewhere.

Fast forward to the late 1990s. By this time I was well along in my 30s and starting to look more than a little like Justice O'Connor in spite of being a good 30 years younger than she. I was still following a semi-starvation diet, but even so the weight was starting to creep back on, and of course I'd dieted off what little muscle I'd ever had so that even more than being overweight I was overfat.

So, with the admirable logic of the carb-depleted I decided to start running. This did in fact help me lose some weight. But of course it didn't do a thing for my muscle tone ... so naturally I decided that what I needed to do was run even more. Woohoo! I was on the Overuse Injury Express! Pretty soon I was down from 30-plus miles per week to no miles a week, and the weight was coming back on, and I was grumpy to boot.

Enter The FIRM:

(What's up with all the yellow leotards and swimsuits, anyway? Yellow is an awful color for me, which should tell you something right there.)

I didn't actually want to look like Susan Harris because she seemed a bit thinner than I thought would be healthy for me, but I definitely wanted to be strong like her. I loved the way she was able to press 15 lb dumbbells overhead and do pushups on her toes--12 of them! Wow! I didn't know girls could do that! Well, I did, but I'd never thought of it as being anything I could do.

What was so positive about this for me is that for the first time ever I had a performance goal instead of simply an appearance goal. This was a major, major mental shift for me, to be exercising for reasons other than to achieve a certain look.

Which is not to say that cosmetic results no longer mattered to me, because of course they did. First I wanted to look like FIRM instructor Tracie Long

Only without the implants.

Then I wanted to look like Cathe Friedrich:

Only with hips.

Then I stopped doing videos and started doing the bodybuilder-ish routines featured in magazines like Oxygen in the hope of one day looking like Elaine Goodlad:

Only without the implants, Ooompa Loompa skintone and apparent steroid use.

Then I decided to do P90X just for kicks, and immediately I decided I wanted to look like Dreya, the gorgeous gymnast/aerialist who appears in some of the DVDs:

Only with ... okay, no, she looks fine as is, and I still wouldn't mind looking like her.

Mostly, though, I'm okay these days with just looking like me, except that I really do need to do something about my hair:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pull-focus workout

This was another one of those vile "active rest" workouts where instead of taking breaks between sets I did bodyweight exercises for 20 reps. Not so bad, actually, except for the pushups. Those were bad. Atrocious. Unspeakable. Blasphemies were uttered. The Lord's name was not taken in vain, but probably would have been if I'd had sufficient breath left in my body.

Superset: Pullups, 4x8; pike pushups, feet elevated, 4x8
Superset: BB rows, 4x8x85; close grip pushups, 4x8
Superset: DB rows, 4x8x30; t-pushups, 4x8

After set 1 I did 20 squats, after set 2 20 pushups, after set 3 20 lunges, and after set 4 20 mountain climbers. No true rest except to chug water and set up my barbell for the second superset. The 20 pushups weren't so bad the first time through. The second and third times, they were.

I finished up with a little metabolic thingy:

jump squats, 4x10, 10 sec rest between sets
rocket jumps, 4x10, 10 sec. rest between sets
SB jackknives, 4x10, 10 sec. rest between sets
TGU with 8 kg, 2x5 each side, 10 sec. rest between sets.

Why I Don't Like "Cheat Days"

This is sort of a follow-up to the post below re: alcohol consumption and fat loss.

First of all, let me make it clear that if you're on a program such as Body For Life that allows you one day per week during which you're free to eat whatever whenever, and you're getting great results with it, pay no attention to what I'm about to say. Diet is a very individual thing, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. If you've found something that works for YOU, that's all that matters, and if that plan involves a weekly cheat day so be it. Carry on, keep up the great work, and so on and so forth.

In the interests of full disclosure I should also add that I've done the Body For Life diet and gotten great results with it. But I think the reason my results were so good is that even on my cheat days I practiced some restraint. My cheating mostly took the form of ignoring all the rules about the timing of meals, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat at each meal, and so forth. I didn't eat huge quantities of food, and other than the occasional martini or glass of wine I didn't consume empty calories. This wasn't really a conscious decision on my part. It's simply that I've learned the hard way that certain foods have a bad effect on my moods as well as my energy level and athletic performance so I prefer to avoid those foods even when the program I'm on doesn't require it. It's not difficult for me. Years of aversion therapy tend to have that effect :)

Thing is, a lot of people don't seem to "get" that when I ignore the bread basket and pass on dessert, I'm not "being good" or exercising willpower or what have you. I'm just doing what I need to do to feel healthy. And since I like to feel healthy every day, it's my choice to stay more or less "on plan" every day.

Also--I admit it!--being strict in some ways allows me to be lax in others. I'm not as careful about my macros as I would need to be if I were looking to get in competition shape, and I often miss meals due to poor planning. For me, bending the rules a little every day works better than eating perfectly 6 days a week, then letting all heck break loose on day 7. It just seems more realistic somehow, because the fact is, most of us don't have such absolute control over our lives that we can plan for every contingency.

Then, too, as someone who spent years of her life dealing with an eating disorder, I admit I have a hard time with diet programs that impose too many hard-and-fast rules. I prefer to be as intuitive about my eating as I can be. I'm still learning to trust myself when it comes to food, and I will never gain that trust if I allow someone else to decide for me what I'm going to eat and when I'm going to eat it. This is a big part of why I've never seriously considered competing: I'm pretty sure that for me at least it would set me way, way back in terms of my recovery.

(Also, of course, I'm lazy. And I'm cheap. And I'm shy. And I'm pretty sure Jan Tana would give me eczema or something. I do sort of want the shoes, though.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Squat-tastic Saturday

Woo hoo and all that.

Have I mentioned how much I despise going to the gym on Saturday morning, or on any day when I don't have to be there to train clients? But since I don't have a squat rack at home (hah!) it had to be done.

Superset: BB back squats, 10x115, 8x125, 4x135, 10x125, 8x135; 1-leg RDL, 10xBW, 8x10; 4x15; 10x10, 8x15

Superset: BB front squats, 10x65; 8x75; 4x85; 10x75, 8x85; Bulgarian ss, leg on SB, 10xBW, 8x10; 4x15; 10x10, 8x15

Superset: BB overhead squats, 10x45, 8x55, 4x60, 10x55, 8x60; SB 1-leg curls, 10, 8, 4, 10, 8

Bodyweight interval metabolic thingy: MB wood choppers 20 sec /hold the ball overhead 10 sec. 8x; squat thrusts 20 sec./plank hold 10 sec. 2x; run in place with high knees 20 sec./plank hold 10 sec. 8x; squat thrusts 20 sec./plank hold 10 sec

Alcohol and Fat Loss

Is it possible to drink and still lose body fat?

The short answer, I would say, is yes. A recent post by Craig Ballantyne on his Turbulence Training for Fat Loss (www.ttfatloss.c0m) website sums up my thoughts on the subject:

Q: How much of an impact does 1-2 glass of wine a day have on fat burning goals?

Answer: It depends on total calories consumed each day. Each glass of wine is 100-150 calories.

If your total calorie needs for each day are 2000, and you drink 2 large glasses of wine, that means you can only eat 1700 calories of food (sticking to whole, natural foods, of course).

If you can be disciplined and stick to the 1700 calories, then the wine shouldn’t have much - if any - negative impact on your fat burning.

So in theory, you certainly could drink two glasses of wine per day and have six pack abs.

It's the "in theory" bit that's important here. Not many people, in my experience, approach alcohol in this way. We live in a nation of binge drinkers. We abstain during the work week and indulge on the weekend. We drink until we're mildly intoxicated ... and then we compound the damage by making poor food choices. Then we rationalize it by saying, well, it's only once a week, and once a week can't hurt, can it?

Of course it can. Think about it: to lose a pound of fat a week, you need to create a daily calorie deficit of 500. Not an easy thing to do unless you're the Incredible Hulk, with a basal metabolic rate to match. And just about impossible if once a week you're downing a pitcher of beer, plus chips, plus pizza, plus whatever else seems like a good idea after you've had that beer. The yuppie equivalent is just as bad: a cocktail or two, followed by wine-with-dinner, followed by some sort of foo-foo coffee drink and one (outsized)-dessert-two-forks. And don't kid yourself that your dinner entree is "on plan" just because you ordered fish. The method of preparation can add lots of calories, and they probably served it to you on a bed of yummy buttery mashed Yukon Golds.

Even so, if you only do this once a week you can still lose fat, just not very quickly, because there's a limit to how much damage most of us can do over the course of a single evening. Even if you end up consuming 2000 excess calories you've only undone 4 days of work. You're still down 1000 for the week, meaning that over the course of a month you should lose slightly over a pound of fat.

But what if once a week becomes an entire Lost Weekend? If that's your pattern, you can pretty much forget about fat loss. In fact, you'll be lucky not to gain.

The bottom line is this: the calories in alcohol are just empty calories, no worse for you than any other empty calories. If you can have a glass of wine or a cocktail and still be in calorie deficit mode, you will lose body fat. But if alcohol is a trigger food for you, meaning that you find it just about impossible to drink without drinking to excess and making poor food choices that put you in calorie surplus mode, you definitely should abstain if you're serious about losing fat. And, of course, if you want lose fat as fast as possible you shouldn't be having ANY empty calories from any food source whatsoever, including alcohol.

Just something to think about next time you're out on the town with friends.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yesterday and today

Yesterday ended up being an active rest day. I took ballet class, but that was it. I think I needed the break.

Today was a push-focused workout for the most part:

superset: BB bench press, 10x80; 8x85; 4x95; 10x85; 8x85; DB rear delt raise, 10x10; 8x12; 4x15; 10x12; 8x15

superset: incline DB press, 10x25; 8x30; 4x31.5 :(; 10x30; 8x31.5; side plank lateral raise, 10x5; 8x8; 4x10; 10x8; 8x10

KB thing: TGU, 5 per side, 50 swings; TGU 4 per side, 40 swings; TGU 3 per side, 30 swings, TGU 2 per side, 20 swings, TGU 1 per side, 10 swings.

I'm still TGU challenged on the left side. I can manage 12 kg but only if I stay very focused. Oh well. It'll get easier ... and then it'll be time to move up in weight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Workout

Today was GVT with decreasing rest periods: 5 sets, 5 reps per exercise, rest periods decreasing by 15 seconds between each superset (60 sec->15 sec.)

superset: sumo deads, 135 lbs, jump squats, 30 lbs
superset: RDL, 120 lbs, Bulgarian ss, 30 lbs
superset: snatch grip deads, 100 lbs (could've gone a bit heavier--woot!), pistols, BW

Then I finished with five rounds of Two Minute torture courtesy of (check out the Workout of the Day feature if you want some great ideas for awful things you can do to yourself involving mostly kettlebells and bodyweight).

The idea here is to begin each round on the 2 minute mark:

5 burpees
5 snatches each arm
15 mountain climbers
20 swings

As written the workout is meant to last 20 minutes, but since I was doing it as an add-on I only did half.

Later, ballet!!!