How Much Progress Can You Lose?

How much progress can you lose in a few weeks. All right, okay, a month?

A lot, as it turns out.

Vacation, kids, just being lazy, and trying a couch to 5k program got in the way of strength training. I never did figure out how to merge a couch to 5k program into my strength training routine. So, as I started working on the 5k, I fell off the strength training wagon.

For a month.

Yeah, I didn’t realize it had been that long, but as I looked at my log that listed the last day I had trained, it was undeniable.

So, I knew I’d have to ease back from where I was. I just didn’t realize how far I’d have to ease back. Or how much I’d hurt the next day.

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I so thought I was over each step I took reminding me I’d overdone it the day before, like when I first started strength training.

See, I try hard not to overdo it in these sessions. I have a day job that requires concentration if not physical exertion, and pain makes it hard to concentrate. I also have two amazing but rambunctious kids that demand my attention. And, I hate asking my husband to run down to the basement to bring up the clothes because my legs have the consistency of jelly or my arms can barely lift a pencil.

Granted, I’m not that bad this time. Okay, I did ask him to bring up the laundry, but I could lift more than pencil.

As I revitalize the routine, I find myself going through another case of the “I’m so hungry I’ll even eat peas” phase. That says something as I can’t stand peas. They’re all wrinkly, and they smell like dirty feet while they cook. Snow peas or pea pods, those are a whole different food stuff. We eat those like they’re candy in our house.

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Not sure how long it’ll take me to get back to where I was a month ago. Hoping only a few weeks, but it’s so hard to tell. I’m getting older, and my body is letting me know. I finally broke down and bought compression socks to help with the ankle I broke last year. Probably going to need a compression sleeve for at least one knee. Not so much for the strength training, but practicing for a 5k has been murder on that ankle I broke, especially.

*sigh*  I can’t be a twenty-something forever. And while I’d love the body of my twenty-something self, not sure I’d be willing to trade my wisdom and self-esteem for that body.

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How about you? Do you find that a month away from something makes you worse at it? If so, how long does it take you recoup lost ground? If you don’t get worse at it, do you have a secret you can share as to how you manage it?

Protein Powder – Fact and Wishful Thinking

I have taken up strength training, and as part of the process, the nutritional information I’ve been fed most of my life kicked in.

Ever since I took a class through my employer twenty years ago, people have been pushing protein powder post workout. Not just any protein powder, but whey protein.

Up until this point, I’d been diligently following what that original instructor told me. The books I’d bought on the subject reiterated everything he’d said.

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No, not Facebook. Just my blog.

I decided to check with science and see what the actual demonstrable results were.

This was harder than I thought.

I read through the WebMD articles, but there were no links to actual studies. No published results. Just an “expert” giving their opinion. I was surprised, though I probably shouldn’t be.

There is a lot of really good information here  if you are a really serious lifter. If you look past the images, you’ll see that the site is actually quite impressive. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was. The articles I read there were all very well written and footnoted.

Yeah, the authors quote real studies. They think about those studies and what they mean for their target readers. Seriously good site. I wish I could find something similar for middle-aged desk-jockeys trying to dodge osteoporosis. Interestingly, this site assumes you are drinking a shake after workout and goes into which protein powders are best. But, these guys are hardcore lifters.

I am not. Middle-aged desk-jockey, remember?

So, WebMD’s site offered a different opinion than the “expert” that my company had paid to come talk to all of the employees, and a different opinion than that of devoted lifters. WebMD’s opinion had no scientific studies behind it, so I dug a little deeper.

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Opinions masquerading as facts permeate the web. Have to check your sources carefully.

 

I found this: Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training

It’s from the US National Library of Medicine. Yeah, that’s a respectable data source.  I tried to read this article, but I’ll confess, I ended up skipping down to the conclusion. That conclusion states that certain proteins, consumed pre or post workout, do, indeed, have an impact. Not only that, but for building muscle, whey protein really did have the best results.

Sometimes experience, as in the case of those weight lifters over at T-Nation, has taught us a thing or two.

Next question for me, however, is does what I do really constitute the level of exertion they are describing in the study.

Probably not. I’m a desk-jockey by day and romance writer by night. Yes, I’m strength training, but I’m not really “weight lifting”. Especially not like the guys a T-Nation. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m in awe. Especially after enduring my version of strength training. That’s serious dedication and pain over there that I’ll never have.

That’s okay. My goals are different. I’ll never be ripped, but I am looking to be able to stay mobile as I age and fend off osteoporosis which is a big deal in my family, especially for desk-jockeys.

As of right now, I am still using the powder after each workout.

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Although, first I have to get the scoop out. Why doesn’t it attach to the lid?!?

Not because I think it’ll help me build more muscle, but because of a less talked about side effect.

Faster recovery.

I’d love to link to a quality study on this, but for all of the websites that talk about faster recovery, none of them actually link to any studies that prove it. *sigh*

What I do have is my own experience. Maybe it’s placebo (the brain is powerful that way), or maybe it’s real, but lots of people who do much harder workouts than mine swear it helps get rid of jelly legs faster. Lemme tell ya, I’ll do a lot to get rid of jelly legs and drinking something that tastes like chocolate milk is not a hardship.

So, for the moment, I’m willing to let my quest for the truth rest and drink my protein shake after working out. Maybe it helps, maybe it’s all in my head, but for the moment, I don’t see any reason not to indulge a placebo. And, they whey protein I found on Amazon tastes like chocolate milk.

 

How about you? Do you strength train, and if so, do you drink a protein shake afterwards? Why or why not? Any other post-workout tips to reduce jelly legs or just the general aches and pains?

One Month

I’ve made it through one month of strength training.

Eleven sessions in four weeks. Not quite the three per week that is ideal, but not bad either. It’s a start to rebuilding the bone I lost when I had my little ones.

But now to stick with it.

See, I hate strength training. I don’t like the feel of heavy weights in my hands. I don’t enjoy the feel of a bar across my back or the burn in my legs as I squat. I just don’t.

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I hear “do something you love” all the time. I get that I’m much more likely to stick with an exercise I love.

Sadly, that’s not easy either. See,  I don’t love much exercise. Reading. Yup. Writing. Mostly. You’ll notice neither of those are exactly physical activities.

I loved tennis in my youth. There was something about chasing the little fuzzy ball that kept me entertained. I’d spend hours hitting the ball against a backboard to force my backhand to improve. I even found lighted courts so I could play at night.

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I learned to ignore the bats that came out to eat the bugs the lighted courts drew. I found ways to practice even in the winter. I loved the sport.

But, in my very early twenties, I learned I had a genetically bad back. The twisting motion from tennis was aggravating it, and I had to stop.

So I did.

Was years before I took up walking with my husband. We started small, but soon, we were traipsing around the neighborhood. Everyone knew us as “that couple we see walking”.

We’d literally walk for an hour or two every night after work. We’d talk about our day, hopes, wishes, dreams. Then, we started playing an RPG, and we started talking about characters.

That’s when the walks got really long.

We loved making characters. Seeing what they would do in different scenarios. It was a fabulously creative way to spend the evenings. We both dabbled with our writing, but neither of us had really taken it seriously at that point. After all, I was finishing graduate school while working full time, and after that, we were planning to start a family.

And start a family we did.

Complications in the pregnancy made us give up walking, but eventually, we had an amazing little one.

We just didn’t realize we’d never be able to have a grown-up conversation again. At least not while she was awake.

Once we were able to take walks again, talking about anything that did not directly involve her was impossible. She started talking at 11 months, and hasn’t stopped since.

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We bought and elliptical machine and treadmill and plopped them in front of a 60 inch TV. We thought we could watch a movie or catch up on a few shows while we worked out.

You already know how that went for us. DD1 was not tolerating being left upstairs while one of us went to the basement. Sure, we could’ve ignored her tears, but I get two hours with her a day. Less, if you include that part of that time I’m making dinner.

Gotta say, Sesame Street and My Little Ponies are NOT conducive to a strong workout. Even with an audio book playing, I still can’t concentrate on it with the sound and motion.

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For me, working out consistently for a month is an accomplishment. May not be for most other people. But I’m not them. I’m me. I have to compare me to me. And, I’m giving myself kudos for making it a month.

If I make it another month, I’m rewarding myself with a massage. I may not like exercise, but I can like the rewards that come with it.

 

How about you? Do you love exercise? Hate it? Find it boring? How do you motivate yourself to do it, especially if it’s not one of your favorite things? Any treats you give yourself, or maybe something else?

Six Things I’ve Learned from Strength Training

So, I’m a couple of weeks in on strength training. And, it reminds me that I’m not twenty-seven any more.

There are things I’ve struggled to do, things I’ve had to ease back on to avoid injury, and days where my body just aches.

I usually walk one-and-a-half miles a day with some pretty impressive hills, but strength training is very different. After being away from it for eight years, it’s reminding me of how very different. Here are some of the things it’s taught me so far.

1. The Hunger Eases – I was achingly hungry for a few days after my first session. But it eased, and it hasn’t really returned.

Now it’s like half a pizza.

2. Need for More Hydration Doesn’t – I never quite jumped on board the water-toting culture. Yes, I have a water bottle at my desk, but that’s more to keep me from spilling it all over. Still, after three weeks in, I am way more thirsty than I ever was before.

3. Sleep Hard – I put my head on the pillow these days, and I’m asleep in less than ten minutes. On an actual training day, usually less than two minutes. I also find myself waking up less at night, and even when I have horrifying dreams (the one the other night was about the onset of nuclear war being the diversion used for someone to abduct my children, and then me having to go through a nightmare fun house to get them back), I can get back to sleep.

4. Drawn to Healthier Foods –  I’ve actually found myself far more inclined to choose healthy foods. Like, it’s not an effort. And when DH mentioned going out to eat, I sort of shrugged. I’d rather a home-cooked meal I didn’t have to cook (let me know where you can find of those). I’ve wanted veggies and fruit. Meat cooked well without a lot of salt and sauces. We’ll see if this holds…

5. My Body Misses Exercising – I’ve seen this before with walking, so I wasn’t as surprised, but my body genuinely misses working out. I may not be much inclined some days, but when I don’t, I really feel it.

6. Not as Young as I Used to Be – This has really been brought home to me. Recovery time, at least at first, has been longer than it was eight years ago. I’ve also had to modify some exercises. I can’t apply weight to a bent wrist after an injury I sustained five years back. I have to be very careful of certain exercises like lunges on the foot I broke last year. My pride may feel a bit wounded, but better that than an injury.

 

How about you? Have you ever incorporated strength training into your exercise? Do you now? Do you like it? Hate it? Any thoughts for someone restarting it again?

 

My Legs Are Made Out of Jelly

I started strength training approximately ten years ago. Then, we decided to have children. Between issues with pregnancy and finally having a squalling if amazing baby, I quit lifting.

Yes, I know how important it is. For general wellness and doing things like spreading mulch, and but also to prevent osteoporosis. This disease is big deal in my family, made all the worse by where I’ve lived most of my life.

Per my endocrinologist, the closer to the equator you are, the less likely you are to develop it. Having lived in the north of the US most of my life has increased my likelihood of the disease quite a bit. Things like strength training can help decrease it.

Back before children, I went straight to the gym after work. Eventually, we put a home gym in, and I went to that as soon as I got home from work.

So, I tried that again. Simply coming home, throwing on my gear, and heading to the basement. But it was almost impossible to get there. My daughters wanted, needed, my attention. They hadn’t seen me all day and missed me. How could I possibly walk past my toddler holding her arms out to me with a grin on her face as she says, “Momma, momma, momma!”

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Don’t forget to add writing!

That leaves mornings before they get up and evenings after they go to bed. I am not much of a morning person, but I learned very quickly I don’t have enough energy left to start any kind of exercise after they are in bed.

Setting aside my lack of being a morning person, morning is doubly hard for strength training as you’re supposed to be awake for an hour before you start lifting to help prevent injury. I haven’t been in my indestructible twenties for a long time. Injury is most assuredly a thing that happens to people at my age.

So, I decided to tweak my work schedule and work on strength two days a week at lunch and one day on the weekend. I reviewed my old workout plan, modified a few things to take into account my current physical state, and implemented it.

After strength training for the first time in almost seven years, I’ve discovered just how hard stairs can be to climb.

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My legs feel like jelly and my arms don’t want to lift off the keyboard. I hadn’t thought I’d overdone the workout, but apparently even body-weight push-ups on an incline are hard after seven years. Really hard.

Beyond moving with the stiff gait of the walking dead, the other thing I noticed was how hungry I was.  I mean hungry. Not just in the it’s almost time for dinner hungry. But genuinely hungry. I had an apple in the afternoon and later a Kind bar. I was still hungry when I got home. I snacked on some fruit and a bit of beef jerky and devoured dinner. I was still hungry.

At this point, I was starting to feel like the very hungry caterpillar.

We normally don’t keep snacks in the house because if you don’t have them, it doesn’t take much willpower not to eat them. I was so hungry by eight o’clock that I had a headache.

I ended up finding my stash of frozen custard and plowed through it. I’d love to justify it by saying it was chocolate custard with raspberries in it, so clearly it couldn’t be so bad. But there’s no point. I knew how bad it was while I was eating it and didn’t care. I was hungry and this was finally helping me feel full.

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So, while strength training may help build some strength and some bones, I need to figure out a way to deal with this spike in hunger. I’m hoping it’s just temporary while my body gets used to the new demands being made on this desk jockey.

On the positive side, I had no trouble falling asleep. Literally, I don’t think my head was on the pillow for thirty seconds before I was sound asleep. I also slept the whole night, and when a nightmare woke me up, as they do, I rolled over and was back asleep in less than a minute.

 

How about you? Ever started a strength training routine? How’d it go? Any tips? Or maybe you over did some gardening or other work and paid for it the next morning? Any tips on how you coped?