I was introduced to resistance/strength training in grade 9 by the fantastic Mrs. Haswell at The Woodlands School. We used free weights but a lot of our strength training revolved around machines. I distinctly remember hating the pec deck but also wanting to use it as much as possible because I hated how weak it made me feel. I don’t remember how much stronger I got because we didn’t really measure, it was just a general introduction. But I felt comfortable with the machines and felt very cool doing bicep curls with the dumbbells. 😀
After that, strength training didn’t really factor into my life. I gravitate towards dance and general have-active-fun type of activities. In Alberta, high school doesn’t start until grade 10, so in grade 12, we discovered I couldn’t graduate because I didn’t have the one physical education class, it was arranged that I would take it in summer school after grade 12, and so I did graduate. I’ve loved gym class ever since I can remember. Now I was in summer school gym, which meant that the whole day was basically a day of lots of fun. We biked, played basketball, soccer, tennis, went camping for a few days, and did all sorts of fun stuff. It was a blast. We also went to the local YMCA for some strength training here and there.
There I learned how to figure out how much weight you should be lifting in the machines, what training to failure meant (and the pros and cons of such training), and discovered that I don’t really like the treadmill (the elliptical is just more interesting). During university, I think I set foot in the university gym all of once. Or maybe twice. (The University of Alberta gym at the time royally sucked. I’ve since heard it has undergone renovations and is pretty great now!)
After my surgery and the weird side effects of weight gain plus a bunch of weight gain that was my own emotional-eating doing, I started to pay more attention to my health. Some of it had to do with the fact that I would like to fit into my own clothes again and some of it had to do with the medical stuff I underwent. I just couldn’t take my health for granted anymore.
I knew I should work out. I work from home and I’ve started to lead a pretty sedentary lift as opposed to when I was a student and walked everywhere. I tried a bunch of things. Tried Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred workout (tried it 3 times, each time, gave up on it after a week), tried Insanity (tried it 4 times, gave up at 1 week, 3 weeks, and 1 month twice), tried BodyRock (gave up after 2 days), did Just Dance on the Wii (this was successful to a certain point, until I had gone through every song on the two versions I had and got bored). Nothing stuck.
Until I got a Fitbit and set the goal of walking every single day for a month – and did it. See, until then, I thought what I needed to stick to a fitness program was variety, because I kept getting bored easily. But turns out, that wasn’t the problem, because walking every single day, usually on the same exact trails, was about as boring and unvaried as it gets. The problem was measurements and data.
I stuck with my goal to walk everyday for 30 days because I got measure my steps every single day. I could see during what time of the day I was most active and able to walk more, and use that to my advantage. I’m motivated by data and I love competing with myself.
I didn’t understand this until January though. At the end of last year, I set some core desired feelings. One of them was sexy – to feel great in my body again. I’m dead serious about that, so I had to explore reasonable and viable methods to become healthy again, and to do that, I had to figure out what I liked.
I’ve been following Nerd Fitness since 2012. And one of my absolute favourite success stories is Staci. She’s awesome. I admire what she did. She did it through powerlifting. I had already been acclimated to the idea that the best way to lose weight and stay healthy was through strength training. I tried bodyweight training programs but I couldn’t stick to them. And for the longest time I was reluctant to go the gym. They’re expensive and I was no longer confident in my own body – and to be surrounded by people far fitter than me and becoming more fit, was intimidating.
Since around November, I’ve been part of this amazing Facebook group called Fierce. Fit. Fearless. (unfortunately it’s no longer accepting members, so I can’t link to it). The motto of the group?
Eat real food; lift heavy. Repeat.
Seeing the results of the amazing women and the videos of them lifting incredible amounts of weight grew on me. I didn’t participate in the group, but I read every post I saw in my News Feed.
In the January recap, I wrote about taking part in the Cold Shower Therapy challenge (you take a cold shower in the morning every day for 5 full minutes) and how it revolutionized my mindset. I also started dancing a lot more which had tangible results in how my clothes fit and the person I saw in the mirror. But the Cold Shower Therapy got me out of the feeling-sorry-for-myself-and-what-happened-to-me-and-mourning-for-the-last-two-years phase. In most areas of my life, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks and I finally figured out (for the most part..I have my bad days) how not to give a fuck in this area of my life too.
At some point, I had come across the website Strong Lifts, but because I wasn’t planning on strength training and most certainly didn’t have access to the equipment, I dismissed it. But in February, I ended up at the site again. I don’t know how, but I ended up reading from top to bottom the guide to the StrongLifts 5×5 beginner strength training program.
My brother is a member at a 24 hour gym called Anytime Fitness, and it’s walking distance from our house. I found out how much it costs, checked to see they have the necessary equipment, and on February 12th became a member. Feb 16 was my first day at the gym, and the first day of Strong Lifts for me.
I stood in front of the power rack, staring at the barbell. Beside me a guy was bench pressing at least 100lbs, on the other side, there was a guy deadlifting at least 200lbs. I wrote into the group Fierce. Fit. Fearless:
I didn’t see the responses until later. But after I wrote the post, I realized I sounded terrified. Somehow admitting that made me remember that I had no reason to give a fuck. This wasn’t about them. It was about me. The barbell on its own was 45lbs. I did the squats and the bench presses with that empty bar. I did 50lbs barbell rows. And it was hard. I failed to complete 5 full sets of 5 reps for every exercise. It was heavy, man.
But when I finished the workout, I knew with certainty that I would be back. I grinned. Because this was exactly what I needed. I walk into the gym knowing exactly what I’m going to do. My entire mind and body is focussed on beating my previous record and getting stronger. When I’m in the power rack, all that matters is the weight I’m lifting. Except for when I was visiting friends in Edmonton, I haven’t missed a single training day. And I’m onto my 6th week.
I squat 100lbs now. I bench 60lbs. My barbell row is up to 65lbs. My deadlift? My deadlift is up to 135lbs! My overhead press is at 55lbs. I’m the strongest I have ever been.
And this is just the beginning.
I’ve also lost 6lbs and clothes I haven’t been able to fit into for at least a year are wearable now (though I need a couple weeks more before I wear them in public 😛 )
Of course, I also eat relatively well, which is a story of its own. But my confidence in my body is better than it has been in years. I look in the mirror and you know what? I see arms that lift. And quads that help me lift 100lbs. And I feel fucking amazing.
I was thinking about this one day while flexing in front of the mirror (I’m a wee bit obsessed with my increasing muscle definition, sue me) when I thought to myself ‘strong is sexy’.
And you know what? That’s so true for me. I find strength sexy. And feeling strong makes me feel sexy.
Surrounding myself with information about strength training, keeping the virtual company of amazing women who are fierce, fit, and fearless, and powering through my own fears did a lot for me. And to be clear, this post isn’t about a journey completed. This post is the mark of a journey begun. I love lifting heavy. I love feeling strong and getting stronger.
I do old fashioned lifts. Though I don’t there’s anything in particular wrong with weight machines, I relish being able to handle heavy weight unassisted by anything except a barbell in hands or on my back. I do the same 5 exercises 3 days a week, every week. And it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Weight lifting is my favourite.