Working On Me Again
Pretty light for a deadlift, but you have to start somewhere
Fitness and nutrition have played a significant role in my life since my days in Arizona as an undergraduate, a skinnyfat 19 year old who had only ever played music (not sports) as a kid, trying to impress a very tall athletic ex-volleyball player. (I'm now married to that guy!) In over 20 years, I've been a climber (still am!), a step aerobics queen, a runner, a triathlete, a yogi, a snowboarder, a P90X-er, a lifter... done vegetarianism, veganism, eaten paleo and IIFYM bodybuilding style. I didn't do these as fads to lose weight; they mark specific times in my life that involved a certain way of eating and/or a style of movement. To say that thinking about these things is a big part of my life would be an understatement.
But something was different right after I gave birth. Thoughts of self-improvement were pushed out by infant caring and feeding. Also, pregnancy and childbirth and a good couple years of IVF limbo really took a toll on my motivation to try hard, to project, to work on my own physical goals. It took a while to resurface, but the part of me that wanted to try hard showed up again in Greece, when we were taking turns watching baby and climbing. I had some great sends out on the rock, and I also got shut down on some difficult routes that made me want to get stronger. I'm finally feeling ready to work on myself again in this realm - to experiment on my body with fitness and nutrition.
As much as some researchers have tried to construct them, good clinical trials for fitness and nutrition regimens don't really exist. There's only so far a rat study can be extrapolated to humans, and it's difficult to design control arms of research for diet and exercise interventions. But we are all our own N=1 experiment. If you have the curiosity and motivation to try new things, and the patience to stick with them for at least a little while (I'd say at least 3-4 weeks), you can perform your own health studies on yourself. How something works for you is the only thing that matters anyway.
So here's what I'm currently trying:
Eating low carb every day except for one. I'm loosely following a diet protocol referred to as CarbNite or Carb Backloading. It might have a gimmick-y ring to it, but the idea is to eat carbohydrates in a reverse diurnal rhythm to daily cortisol pulsations. In general, it is low-carb eating with punctuated periods of higher carbs (for me, about one evening a week). My husband has been eating this way for years, having higher carb dinners following any workout day. I've been wanting to try it with the once/week carb night, and so far I am seeing good results. Since the end of October, I haven't seen the scale move (which is fine with me), but my clothes have gotten looser and measurements have slightly changed. I have good energy for workouts, I don't feel the faintiness I often get of from blood sugar fluctuations, and my cravings for sugar have definitely decreased.
Weight lifting 2-3 days per week. Especially now with the mix of motherhood and work, I try to follow this exercise triage:
Remember my self-care triage?
Well, I made one for exercise types as well but never really expounded on it for the blog.
Weight training is empowering, effective, not generally as burnout-inducing as chronic cardio or tons of high-volume metabolic work (a la Crossfit), and I have come to love it over the years. It's so good to be doing it again! I'm following a whole body push/pull split, which means that one day I dedicate my workout to pushing exercises such as pushups, squats, hip thrusts, and presses. For the pulling day, I'm falling in love with the deadlift again, and I also do assisted pullups (Nope, still can't do one!), pullovers, and kettlebell swings.
There are SO MANY weight lifting programs out there to follow - from Wendler 5-3-1 to Westside Barbell to Stronglifts 5x5 to supersets and other bodybuilding-style rep schemes. Trying to choose one can lead to analysis paralysis, so at some point you just have to just go with something and see what happens. For the past couple of months, I've been doing own hybrid program for the push/pull schedule. I first work on a compound strength movement in a 5x5 style set and rep scheme. Then I do supersets of upper and lower body exercises for the rest of the time, at a weight where I can complete 8-10 reps usually. I finish off with a couple of core exercises and some mobility work.
If you're just starting out with weight training, I highly recommend either working with someone or closely following a book format like this with good photos for demonstration. Even if you have some experience making the movements, it can be helpful to hire a trainer. I am planning to do once a week personal training sessions in this new year to help further inspire me to get stronger. Results of that to come...
Still walking as much as possible. While I haven't been quantifying my steps, I am still trying to take walks as often as I can. My long walks usually correspond to days off, but with our recent move they sometimes got thrown by the wayside. Now that I've established the twice weekly weight training habit, I'll gradually try increasing my walks and yoga/massage/mobility work.
I have some other New Year's resolutions, but these things are a major focus for me in the new year. How about you? What are you working on in 2017? Share it here!