Some Thoughts On Weight

No, no, the other kind.

NancyP asked a number of posts back about how to increase the weight in her free-weight routine without getting an injury or creaking joints and muscles. For the real deal from somebody more experienced than me, I refer everyone to Mistress Krista.

But here’s what my experience has been:

When I came to Chicago, I’d been using 5-lb free weights for years and years. I think I first picked them up when I dropped all of my pill/depression weight when I was 18/19. What I realized, at 23, was that I was doing insane amounts of reps with these little weights and seeing absolutely no results. I felt better because I had a routine, but it wasn’t doing me any good I could see as far as building muscle.

I did something I don’t recommend – I went out and bought 20 lb weights. Anybody in their right mind would have gotten 10 or 15 lbers, but not me. I started doing one set of 3-5 reps with each exercise. It was cool because I cut down the time it took to do my routine, and when I combined this with my twice a week martial arts classes, I noticed a big difference in strength in two weeks. Every week or two I would add one more rep, until I was doing 1 set of 15 of each exercise.

Because I increased by so much weight, I did have some overtraining pain (felt a bit like carpal tunnel in my forearms, actually), and had to slow down in the increase in reps. It took a couple months before I was pain-free again. Which is why I don’t recommend going up more than 10 lbs at a time unless it’s just a free weight you use occasionally for a few exercises.

When it was relatively easy for me to do two sets of 15 with the 20 lbs weights, I switched to 30 lb weights and dropped my reps to 1 set of 5 again, increasing by 1 rep a week until I got to two sets of 15 for all of my exercises but my bicep curls, which I’ll be switching over to 30 lb weights this week.

Going from the 1 set of 5 with 20 lbs to what I’m at now has taken me about… a year and a half, I think. Which seems like a hell of a long time, but there have been a lot of down periods in there: sickness, stress, etc. where I did some backsliding and had to retrain. My ideal is to get up to using 50 lb weights at some point, which I think is doable so long as I ease up into the next weight range slowly and continue to eat enough protein.

Ah, and there’s that protein thing.

Eat a lot of protein. Make it a point to eat eggs and lean meat and fish. Jenn was working out with 10 lb weights for months and was trying to figure out why she wasn’t able to get up to 15 lbers. When she mentioned this to a friend who lifted weights regularly, he asked how much protein she ate. As I recall, she just sort of stared at him blankly. When she upped her protein, she was able to move to 15 lbs no problem.

As for the weight machines, I try to set everything as close to 100 lbs (or my body weight, for the leg press) for my lower body, and 70-90 lbs for my upper body. I do about two or three sets of fifteen. I do the gym twice a week. My free weights I do every morning.

I have a feeling a lot of this “inexplicable” weight loss I’m experiencing actually has a lot to do with my weight-lifting routine. I eat more now and do less cardio than I did the last time I was at this weight (and I was a few years younger), and I feel like it’s pretty effortless now that I have the routine down.

I also eat really frequently – at least five times a day. Lots of yogurt and soup and protein bars, oatmeal, eggs, bacon, fish, pork chops, salad, sometimes some potatoes, etc. During the weekends I’m less structured, and only eat three times a day probably, but since I don’t work out on the weekends (not even free weights), it doesn’t bug me.

A lot of my success at sticking with this was by deciding I was going to do this to be stronger and kick ass – not to be skinny and weak. As a result, I’ve lost weight, but I’m not weak.

The other part is that every time I fucked up and didn’t go to the gym (cause I was sick, stressed, lazy), or didn’t eat the “right” things, or missed my morning weights routine, I didn’t guilt myself about it. If I guilted about it, I’d binge eat and avoid the gym like the plague (which is what happened with my MA classes).

There’s been a lot of forgiveness instead of self-hate.

That makes a huge difference.

Post script:

Switched out my bicep curls weight from 20 to 30 lbs this morning. I went from 2 sets of 15 to 2 sets of…. 2.

So it goes. You just build it up one week at a time.

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