Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My new training goal is ...

extreme hottness.

No, really.

Okay, stop laughing!! I'm serious :)

Here's the deal: I was reading John Berardi's blog the other day and came across a post discussing a physique competition he'd recently attended. His big revelation? That there exist 47-year-old women he would totally hit on!

(Earth to you, Dr. Berardi, hon: if you were to try it you would learn that there exist 47-year-old women who would not give you the time of day, not with that dumb soul patch thing you've got going on. Really, do you even know how stupid that looks on a man your age? Someday you are going to look back at photos of yourself and be so embarrassed.)

As a 47-year-old woman myself I naturally took umbrage. It's time for a paradigm shift, people! This idea that a 47-year-old-female is no longer worth looking at needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history. With regular, vigorous exercise and a good diet we can look great as our daughters. We may not all choose to make the effort, but it IS a choice.

And I'm out to prove it. For the next 8 weeks I'm on a one-woman mission to find out just how good a menopausal woman of average genetic gifts can look without the aid of surgery, airbrushing, or ingestion of anything other than clean foods, protein powder and vitamins. (I do however reserve the right to slap on a coat of self-tanner when the mood takes me.)

More on this later.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Workouts are continuing strong

I benched 105 on Friday, which is not a personal best for me but it's more than I've been able to press in quite a while so I am pleased. There was no one on hand to spot me so I didn't feel comfortable increasing my weights beyond that, but I think I could have.

I also did barbell rows, underhand grip, with 100 pounds which I think is about as much weight as I've ever used for that particular lift.

Next week is a back-off week, with fewer sets and higher reps per set, so I will be using lighter weights. Since my workouts will be less intense I'm going to try cutting my calories some, just to see what happens.

After next week my workout split will change a bit. I will still be lifting four days a week, but instead of a straight upper/lower split I'll have two dedicated upper body days, one lower body day, and one total body day that looks to be more conditioning-oriented. I may try implementing calorie cycling during this phase of training ... or I may not.

I admit, I struggle with motivation when it comes to fat loss. There's a big part of me that thinks it's a bit ridiculous--and maybe not even healthy--for a woman in her late forties to try to maintain the same low body fat percentage she had in her younger days. It's different, of course, for women who participate in physique competitions where a single-digit body fat percentage is imperative. I'm not at all drawn to the sport myself even though I do sort of secretly want a pair of those stripper heels. But I do think it's a pretty cool thing to do and I would love to train an aspiring figure competitor sometime.

Even figure competitors, however, do not maintain ultra-low body fat year-round. At least, the healthy ones don't. Ballerinas do ... but they also do questionable things like dance for years on stress-fractured feet. I admit there's a part of me that wishes I hadn't let myself be talked out of pursuing a career in dance, but mostly I'm glad because I'm sure I wouldn't be as healthy as I am today if I'd stuck with it. Now, thankfully, I don't need to worry about being cut from a show if I've got a strained muscle or am carrying some extra fat. On the other hand I don't love the feeling of being the biggest girl in the corps, and since I have no intention of giving up any of my hard-earned muscle about all I can do is try to shed some fat from my thighs and midsection.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yesterday I deadlifted 185 lbs

Not that I'm proud of it or anything :)

I haven't been posting much lately about my own workouts and nutrition because frankly I'm still trying to figure out what works for me these days. Perimenopause is a game-changer for sure. It used to be that my body would respond in fairly predictable ways to every little tweak in my eating and exercise regimen. Now, not so much. My body still responds, but not always as I expect. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, and yesterday was one of those days. More typically the surprises are not so welcome, but more on that later.

Anyway, here's what I've been doing for my workouts over the past few months:

Because of the hand pain and grip problems I've been experiencing, I've cut way back on my kettlebell practice and returned to free weights as my primary mode of resistance training. After a couple of months of total-body programs three days per week I felt ready to take on an upper/lower body split requiring four days a week of resistance training. The program incorporates "wave loading," which basically is like doing two pyramids, the first with submaximal weight and the second with maximal weight. The first week of the program the rep scheme for the "waves" was 8/6/4, the second week it was 7/5/3, and the third week it was 6/3/1. What I love about this is, I have plenty of time to figure out how well my body is responding before I attempt to max out my weights. Because I prefer to be conservative in my weight selection I generally repeat the final set of the second wave a couple of times, increasing the weight incrementally until I've truly maxed out. Yesterday, for instance, I put 165 lbs on the bar for my final set, which was meant to be my one-rep max. But I knew immediately that I'd gone too light, so I did an extra rep with the 165, then slapped another 20 lbs on the bar and did 185. Then, just for kicks, I put another 15 on the bar just to see what would happen, and of course it didn't move. I didn't mind, though, because at that point I was pretty sure I actually WAS done. It might've just been mental, but either way I certainly wasn't prepared to risk an injury.

I also did 1-arm dumbbell snatches with 40 lbs, which is another personal best. One of these days I will write a post in which I babble about dumbbell/barbell cleans and snatches versus the kettlebell versions of same. I almost wish the exercises had different names because the technique is so different. There are plenty of similarities of course, but then there are similarities between apples and oranges as well, right?

I hadn't really thought about it yesterday, but in looking back on the workout I think the warmer weather we've been enjoying this week may have contributed to my success. My hand pain and numbness are worse when the weather is rainy and cold, but yesterday my grip was not an issue. I had no real problem holding my lockout for several seconds, then lowering with control even with 185 lbs on the bar. I think I will have to try reincorporating kettlebells for some of my high-intensity interval training just to see how that goes. I think it will be better now.

I'd also taken ballet class that morning, so my glutes and core were fully activated. And, no, I wasn't wearing leg warmers but I did still have my pink tights on and I would like to think they contributed in some small way to my success.

More likely, though, it's the supplementation.

In all honesty I am not a lover of supplements. Some have merit, at least for some people, and some (most?) are just snake oil at best, harmful at worst. Sorting out the worthy from the unworthy requires far more knowledge than I possess, so I'm not even going to try. That being said, if your body for whatever reason is subject to more than the ordinary amount of stress, the nutritional support available from food alone may not be enough to meet your particular needs, so supplementation may be in order.

Dr. Susan Kleiner's Power Eating is a good source of information when it comes to sports nutrition. She's not a big fan of supplementation either although she does speak well of creatine. Supplementation as a way of dealing with non-workout related stressors (such as perimenopause) is, however, beyond the scope of her book. More useful in this regard is the Precision Nutrition system, which has some specific recommendations for mid-life women.
I've begun incorporating some of these (zinc, magnesium, phosphatidyl serine, and valerian at night to help me sleep, fish oil to help with moodiness and depression, etc) to pretty good effect, at least when I remember to take them. The phosphatidyl serine is also supposed to help with foggy thinking and excess cortisol, but honestly I can't swear how helpful it is in either regard. I haven't been taking it long so it's too soon to say.

Speaking of Precision Nutrition, I have actually gained some weight on the plan even though my calorie intake has been what until very recently at least was maintenance level for me. I'm not especially concerned, though, because my workouts have been so strong. As long as the extra calories are being put to good use, who cares? Don't get me wrong: I'm somewhat disconcerted that this is the case, and I can't say I'm thrilled about having to get my "fat pants" out of storage. (Yeah, I keep a couple pairs of size 2's around for times like this. Cry me a river already. Sheesh.) But I'm certainly not concerned enough to want to change anything at this point. Getting strong is a priority for me, and I certainly seem to be making progress on that front so for now I can deal with the extra mass on my thighs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sing My Life With Your Words, Tom Venuto!

There's a lot of nonsense "information" on fitness and fat loss floating around the Internet. I should know, because some of it is written by me :) But there's also some very good stuff, and the author of much of it is Tom Venuto, the Burn The Fat guy.

He had a very good blog post the other day on female fat loss that I think you all should read, especially if you are smaller-framed like me:


It's just common sense, but it's still a salutary reminder for those of us who tend to get frustrated when the scale seems not to be moving even though we've been 100 percent compliant with our diet and exercise programs. The sad fact is, whether you weigh 180 lbs or 110, losing a pound of fat means creating a calorie deficit of 3,500. And creating that deficit is a whole heckuva lot easier for the person who weighs 180, because even if he's not terribly active he probably requires 2500 calories a day just to maintain his weight. Cut that by 20 percent and he'll lose a pound a week even without increasing his activity level. The 110-lb person, on the other hand, requires far fewer calories to maintain her weight unless she happens to be, say, an ultra-marathoner-in-training or an aspiring Olympian. Assuming a maintenance level of 1800 calories a day, a 20 percent calorie reduction will result in a weekly deficit of only 2100 calories, equating to a loss of only a little more than half a pound of fat a week. If Ms. 110 wants to speed things along she'll need to move more--but even that can be frustrating because with her smaller frame she's going to burn far fewer calories doing exactly the same workout as her 180 lb friend. (Mr. Tactical Ballerina and I have put this one to the test. But it's all right. I love him anyway. Usually.)

So what's a girl to do? In a word--okay, three words--suck it up. Deal with it. It is what it is, and lamenting the unfairness of it all gets you exactly nowhere. (I'm not saying don't take it out in small passive-aggressive ways on your 180-lb friend, especially if you happen to be married to him. This can be quite enjoyable. Just ask Mr. Tactical Ballerina, who incidentally has the patience of a saint:))

Seriously, you can still attain your fat loss goals even if you're smaller and have a slower metabolism. You just can't expect to shed fat as fast as a bigger person would. The good news is, you probably don't have as much to lose to get to goal. A loss of as little as five pounds may be enough to take you from "acceptable" to "rock star." If you think in terms of percentages of body fat lost you can definitely keep pace with your larger friend. In fact you may even get to goal sooner.

So don't despair. Seriously, don't. Go shoe shopping instead. Buy a nice pair of heels that will make you the perfect height for your weight :) It's much more satisfying.