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.