Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lifting - The Basics

I'm almost 10 weeks into my first cycle of lifting. It's not easy and, as I begin leaning out, I am sore, tired, and hungry every day. I'm also two weeks away from taking my ACSM Certified Personal Training exam. My days are consumed with the gym, meal planning/prepping, and studying. This is not the life I plan to lead forever but I'm very happy I gave myself 3 months to give it my all. The changes (mental, physical, and emotional) have been more than I ever dreamed. And I'm going to take my new knowledge and strength into my next cycle with the aim to be more balanced so I can still have meals out, sweet treats, and look amazing.

Photo Credit: Tumblr

So that leads me to how I plan to design a lifting program. Is it the only way? No. Is it the best way for everyone? No. But it's a great place to start and learn what works for you so you can build your own programs that maximize your results.

Phase 1: Endurance/Strength
Everyone wants to jump right into lifting hard and heavy. But that's when you end up so sore you can't walk or, even worse, injured. Next thing you know you're skipping the next workout or two to recover and all your hard work is slipping away.

The only way to avoid this pitfall is to start slowly (note: I didn't say EASY). Building endurance starts with higher reps. I like to use 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise for the first 2 weeks. It's right on the line between pure endurance lifting and strength building so it sets you up for maximum growth in the next portion. I also like to start with only 4 days of lifting so my body has plenty of time to recover between workouts.

There are several general 'target areas' that need to be strengthened each week. These are your chest, back legs, shoulders, arms, and abs. Obviously, you can't dedicate a day to each group or you won't hit them all in a four day split. A common split, sometimes referred to as the 'Brogram', is chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs, and shoulders/abs. This gives you four workouts per week and makes sure you get all of your muscles ready for growth.

After two weeks of lifting like this, I move onto a five day split. The fifth day is simply a second day of working out my weakest body part. For this first cycle that meant legs for me. I chose them because I love to run but I also want a butt and strong legs. Next cycle I think this will be my back as it is definitely my weakest link and prevents me from squatting as heavy as I'd like and I still can't do a pull-up. You have to decide what your weakness is and hit it the hardest so that it becomes your strength!

August 31, 2014 to January 13, 2015
Grow booty, grow!

Phase 2: Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy)
As an adult you can't actually add muscle. You have all the muscle fibers you ever will. But you can make them BIGGER. This is known as hypertrophy. So how do you do this? The answer is to get a little heavier in the weights, add a few more sets, and keep your reps in the 8-12 range (I prefer 8-10). I also add supersets (grouping two lifts together before resting). Lastly, I added a 6th day of lifting. In this phase, my program consisted of the following days: back, chest/abs, legs, arms/abs, shoulders, legs. I also added more cardio to increase my calorie burn and keep my in running shape. I usually aimed for 30-40 minutes with a day or two of 60+ minutes. The longer cardio days were simply to keep my running up and not related to my lifting goals.

I love my arms and shoulders now!

Phase 3: Leaning Out/Fat Loss
Once you've gained the muscle you have to shed fat so you can show it off! The last portion of a lifting cycle will be losing some of the fluff. This really focuses on diet (which I will talk about in another post) but I also tweaked my workouts.

I kept a 6 day lifting split (5 days with cardio) and added higher volume lifting. This means more sets (usually 4) with higher reps (usually 15-20). I obviously am lifting lighter weights to be able to nearly double the reps I do of each exercise but the 'burn' is killer. I have kept supersets as a big part of my programming and added active rest as well. I usually rested 60-90 seconds between sets in the first two phases. This phase the rest periods are filled with jump rope, mountain climbers, burpees, and tuck jumps. Keeping my heart rate up keeps my calorie burn high. 

After I finish my lifting workout I do 30-40 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio. This can be intervals/speed work on the treadmill, a spin workout, plyometrics, or even rowing. I just try to keep my heart rate up and burn as many calories as I can. 

For the final two weeks my lifting will be done in circuits. I will work through one set of every exercise before I rest for 3-5 minutes and then repeat the series 3-4 times total. After that I will once again perform 30-40 minutes of cardio. 

Working out with Shaun T and Beachbody's T25!

I can attest first hand to the first two phases doing exactly what I'd hoped. I'm still working on my lean out and I have 17 more days before it's over. I hope I will love those results just as much as I loved the muscle building. After hitting a highest weight of 139.5 pounds over the holidays, I am currently sitting at 131 pounds. That is not my 'goal' weight but I'm more worried about not losing my hard-earned muscle than hitting an arbitrary number. 

So I hope this basic overview of the last 10 weeks of my life has helped you get ready to begin or build your lifting program. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I'll cover my nutrition in the next few days.

Also, please remember that I am not a certified trainer (yet). So, as always, consult your physician and listen to your body! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bits & Pieces

The past week has been CRAZY! But in a really, REALLY good way. I have so many things going on that I am excited about and that motivate me to keep moving forward.

Obviously the biggest change has been having a job that is FUN. I spent 4 evenings hanging out at different DICK'S Sporting Goods locations meeting runners and talking gear, training, nutrition, etc. Life really doesn't get much better than that! You can find me January 17 & 18th at the McCandless DSG from 10-2 or so.

This week's events included our replica bridge, catering from Bistro on the Go, the DICK'S Pittsburgh Marathon's Registered Dietitian on site, 20% off your entire purchase at DSG, and a raffle for a free hotel the night before the marathon. I haven't been clued in on what we'll be offering at the next events but I'm sure you don't want to miss it!

Our table and bridge replica

Bistro on the Go catering

The other major priority in my life has been training. I'm hitting the gym every day, snow or ice or sub-zero temperatures. I finally got into the BodPod again (last time was in September 2011) and got some great results. I've lost almost 3 pounds of fat and gained 5.5 pounds of muscle. I imagine I started this program pretty close to where I was in 2011 (22.8% body fat) because I was still neglecting resistance training and eating whatever I wanted. So for 8 weeks of actually watching my nutrition and exercise these results are fantastic!

I've been getting a ton of questions about my nutrition. I'll admit that I'm being VERY restrictive to the average person. I honestly enjoy the challenge and the results speak for themselves. But here's a peek at what some meals look like for me:

Tilapia, sweet potato, and asparagus

Chicken breast, sweet potato, and mixed veggies (and water, of course!)

I use a lot of different seasonings and try different recipes often to prevent boredom. But I still do not drink anything but water and protein shakes or Shakeology (I still have a coffee with Stevia in the morning). I don't eat much red meat. I don't eat white or processed carbs (no bread, no white rice, no white potatoes, etc). I only get a small amount of starchy carbs (like sweet potato and corn). I get 4-6 oz of lean protein per meal (chicken, fish, whey powder, etc) and unlimited veggies. It's not always easy to pass up chocolate, cake or brownies, bread sticks, or pasta but the results are absolutely worth it and I feel amazing. Just for the energy and mental clarity I've gained I would recommend trying to eat 85-90% clean for a month. I bet you'll stick with it.

Finally, the rest of my time is spent studying for my ACSM Certified Personal Trainer exam. I love my gym and the employees there and I am hoping to be one of them come February. I was super excited to be at the top of the 'Frequent Flyers' board for the first week of the year and have now made it my goal to be #1 for the month. Going to a gym where the members and staff are all excited and happy every day makes a HUGE difference in my motivation. 

Tied for #1!

I hope the first part of 2015 has been great for you. Please feel free to let me know if you have any specific questions about my plan or things you would like me to cover in future blogs. I'm hoping to start a few recurring items each week that will help everyone get on track (and stay there!) for the new year. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

An Invitation For You!

I hope the new year has been kind to you so far. I am very excited to be able to share with you an opportunity to start off your DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon training in style!

Each night this week, Monday - Thursday from 6-8PM, we will be hosting VIP Parties at four different DSG locations around Pittsburgh. These nights will include a coupon for 20% off your entire purchase, an opportunity to meet me (and my Brand Specialist partner, Shaun), food and beverages, and an opportunity to win a grand prize "Pittsburgh Staycation". The grand prize includes hotel, parking, and meals for you and your family the night before the marathon so you can skip the traffic and get a good night's rest before the big day!

If you would like to attend please comment on this post with your preferred date and location and I will add you to the VIP list. Spaces are limited and filled on a first come, first serve basis so make sure and claim yours today!

DICK'S Sporting Goods Monroeville - January 5th
DICK'S Sporting Goods Robinson - January 6th
DICK'S Sporting Goods Cranberry - January 7th
DICK'S Sporting Goods South Hills - January 8th

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Here's To 2015!

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe 2014 is over already. So many experiences, both good and bad, were over in the blink of an eye. I'm ready for a new start and lots of opportunities!

The big project I mentioned is finally kicking off! So here's my first announcement for the year. I am now a Brand Specialist for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon! I will be here from now until race day to help you prepare, train, and conquer. You'll be able to run with me beginning with the kickoff run on January 3 and find me at different DICK'S stores throughout the training season to help you with questions, gear selection, and motivation. I am very, VERY excited to be working with all of the amazing staff and runners who make my hometown marathon possible!

I hope you all had a great holiday and feel ready to take on your first, fastest, or funnest (I know it's not a word!) marathon with me in 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate!

I took some time out to enjoy the holidays with my family and with Sean. I also had the distinct pleasure of losing my job on December 23 (sense the sarcasm?). My former employer certainly had a sense of humor when it came to handing out pink slips.

But the good news is that I always come up swinging. I have been working on a huge project and it's finally a done deal! I am going to be working with a big name company, their marketing reps, and a big city marathon. As soon as I have permission to share all the details I promise I will!

I also scheduled my ACSM Certified Personal Training exam for the end of January. Thanks to this I may have a job at my gym. They hope to be hiring a new trainer in February so the timing may just work out perfectly!

Last but not least, I have applied to be an adjunct instructor at a career school. I'm awaiting a review of my qualifications and transcripts but hopefully I will also be teaching classes such as Kinesiology and Anatomy & Physiology in February!

 Post-Christmas lunch cuddles

I've still stuck to my plan through all of this. I started week 8 today and Sean has been going with me every day for the most part. It's been hard being surrounded by treats and junk food. I can't say I haven't fallen off the nutrition wagon a few times but I'm still doing the best I can. I have 4 weeks to make the best of my lean out phase after this week and I intend to kill it.

Christmas Selfies at the gym

On a final, and much funnier, note I saw the weirdest and coolest thing ever while at the gym yesterday. I was on the treadmill doing my long run and I glanced up out the window to see a man with a leash in his hand. Attached to the other end was a large, brown animal. I assumed it was a dog at first but then I realized it definitely wasn't!

I thought maybe my pre-workout was the problem or maybe I was hallucinating. And then the man on the elliptical behind me exclaimed, "That man is walking a deer!" I let out a sigh of relief and then tried to get Sean's attention so he could come see. I didn't succeed so I did the next best thing and grabbed my phone!

Merry Christmas! Here is a pic of a man walking a deer! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Being the Odd (Wo)Man Out

I had a not-so-fun medical experience today. After the last one, I really wasn't thrilled to be headed into a hospital again. This time it was for a biopsy and everyone reassured me that it would be quick and easy. I'm pretty sure that's what I was told in October too!

But what really got to me is that the radiology tech, the nurse, and the doctor who were doing my procedure were all blown away by me. Well, not me per se but my physiology. I'm not overweight, my heart rate, blood pressure, and O2 saturation were all better than good. As I laid on the table and listened to them I realized that medical professionals NEVER see healthy, fit people. It's a rarity, a special treat. And they don't know how to handle it.

The nurse had to turn the alarms off on my monitor because my heart rate of 48 beats per minute was setting them off. My blood pressure of 96/68 was giving some periodic beeps as well. When the doctor pulled out a 5" needle my heart rate shot up... all the way to 60. The doctor double checked with the ultrasound tech that she was well away from my ribs because "she's so thin". The doctor didn't know how to approach a patient without inches and inches of extra padding!

I learned that the county where I had my procedure is one of the top ones in Pennsylvania for obesity. Over 50% of the population is obese, not just overweight, according to the hospital staff. I was told horror stories of patients who couldn't fit on regular beds, the needle wasn't long enough, or had bleeding issues because of all the medications they have to take on a daily basis for all their obesity-related illnesses.

Is this really the world we want to live in? To leave to our children? When will we put down the video games and pizzas and look outside our own front doors? I left the hospital feeling saddened. Not for myself but for all the people who don't know the joy of sprinting up a flight of stairs without getting winded. They don't know what it's like to ride a bike around a lake or hike through the woods. They can't go out dancing or even walk through a museum without having to sit down.

I want to help everyone even though I know I can't save them all. Today's experience just helped me recommit to the WHY behind why I am taking my personal training exam and becoming a coach. I'm going to let the tender spot just under my ribs be a reminder on why I need to study hard over the next few weeks. I've got lives to change and kids to save and souls to nurture. And I can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Anti-Gift List

As a blogger, a mother, a girlfriend, and member of the good old USA I tend to get smothered with (and sucked into) gift buying just like everyone else. I look at a pile of presents and wonder if it's 'enough'. I take on even more overtime to buy 'stuff' for the people I love. And then the holidays come and go and all that's left is a pile of wrapping paper. So instead of writing another 'what to buy the (runner, man, child) in your life' post I am writing the antithesis!

1.) Decorate your home/tree/yard together!

Go as big or little as you want. Put up inflatable Santas or wire and light reindeer. Make your own Charlie Brown tree. Bake salt dough ornaments. Or go all out Clark Griswold style!

2. Bake something!
You can make cookies or a cake. Make it as healthy (or not!) as you want. Get flour all over, feed eachother cookie dough, and laugh at the ridiculous cookie cutters Great Aunt Nancy gave you.

(Photo Credit: Tumblr)

3.) Get outside or workout
Throw snowballs, build a snowman, take a walk, head to the gym, or even shovel some white stuff together! 

(Photo Credit: PopSugar)

4.) Break out the home movies!
What else makes you feel closer to your loved ones than laughing at their bad perm or braces?

(Photo Credit: The Ellen Show)

5.) Make breakfast in bed
Because why not?!

(This is actually a tee shirt!)

6.) Write a letter
Yes, with a pen and a piece of paper. Grab and envelope and a stamp and send someone far away (or near!) an old fashioned note.

7.) Build a blanket and pillow fort
Because you can!

That's it! Get on with it! Go make some memories and save yourself the headaches of fighting crowds, tracking shipments, and losing the scissors or the tape while wrapping!