Does size matter?
So I’m definitely a bit perverse because when I thought of calling this post “Does size matter” I made myself giggle.
Yesterday Ryan and I moved…again…
I’ve literally moved at least every year for the past seven years and I must say, I’m pretty sick of it! (Although I must admit that every time I move I am inspired to write a post about something that happened, like IKEA last year…and this time is no different.)
Every time I move, I think about how grateful I am that I lift heavy on a regular basis because carrying awkward and heavy pieces of furniture up and down flights of stairs is by no means easy or fun.
Like yesterday carrying our gigantic TV stand, which takes up a whole wall and looks amazing, but is a pain in the butt to move.
The stand is taller than I am and most definitely weighs more. It is also extremely long so that it doesn’t easily maneuver through doorways or around corners. Ryan and I were even afraid that it wouldn’t fit through the front door of the place because of the stairs and a very tight turn at the top.
But we also didn’t really want to take it apart before we moved because then we would have to put the bazillion Ikea pieces back together.
So we risked it.
We managed to get it out of our first place and into the truck fine. We also didn’t even struggle with a few other big (and cumbersome) pieces that we feared might not make it down the stairs.
So of course we were super worried that the stand would be impossible to move at the next place since the walk from the truck to the apartment was double the length and up two long flights of stairs (and we’d had such great luck already that something had to go wrong….right?)
When we get to the new place, we first remove all of the boxes and lighter furniture…up and down the stairs.
There is no workout that exactly compares to carrying awkward and heavy things up and down stairs…
And then we got to the TV stand.
Ryan and I had debated on who should walk backwards up the stairs and who should push from the bottom.
I’ve heard before that the stronger person should go in the back and push up the stairs…So of course, I went to the back to push…
But I actually DID end up on the back-end after we experimented with the desk, but not because I was stronger.
I found that being a bit weaker and shorter than Ryan, I struggled to lift as well in the very awkward position of walking backwards up the stairs.
My strength and height served me much better when I was in the less awkward position pushing up on the heavy furniture from the back.
Which got me to thinking about SIZE when it comes to lifting.
People often try to say that they CAN’T do something because of their size – They are too tall or too short. Their arms are too long. Or they are too heavy.
And while I usually get annoyed by those comments because really they are just simply excuses, there is something to SIZE.
How you are built can positively or negatively affect certain lifts and exercises.
That doesn’t mean you have an excuse not to be able to do a pull up just because you have long arms. Or that I have an excuse to not lift heavy awkward furniture just because I’m shorter.
But it does mean that I can’t compare myself to someone else more easily lifting the small box that I just struggled and dripped sweat over the minute before.
And that right there is exactly my point.
We can’t compare ourselves to anyone else because everyone truly is different. We are all different shapes and sizes and that does factor in to our workouts.
So stop comparing yourself to the woman next to you lifting. Stop comparing yourself to how fast she is running.
Start focusing on your own goals and what you CAN DO.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of writing (most of these posts are yet unpublished) about finding your WHY.
The reason WHY you are committing to a healthy lifestyle…but not just the superficial reasons.
Those deep dark reasons that keep you coming back for more no matter what else is going on in your life.
The reason that would keep you coming back even if you didn’t make money or get any recognition for what you’d done.
And this got me to thinking about my true WHY.
Why did I really want to become a trainer? Why did I want to dedicate my life to health and fitness?
It’s funny…When I started as a trainer, I did it because I loved fitness. My why, I thought, was a passion for health and fitness.
But the reason I continued as a trainer wasn’t because I loved fitness so much – it was because I loved people.
If I could do one thing every day, it would be to make at least one person realize their own strength and feel more confident and happy about who they are.
And more specifically, I want to empower women.
Don’t get me wrong…I love improving the health of all my male clients. I love making them stronger and more confident and happy about how they feel. I love seeing their progress in the health and fitness realm carry over into every day life.
BUT my true why is empowering women.
I think this whole empowering thing was bred into me at an early age by my mother who loved to read me fairy tales where the princess rescued herself and sometimes even the prince.
I’ve always been on a quest to be strong, self-confident and independent.
And for me…sports became a way to develop these things.
There is just something about lifting heavy weights or pulling out grueling matches or games that makes you feel so freaking strong.
The victory of doing something as simple as lifting a heavier weight than you lifted before is empowering.
It doesn’t just make you feel better about your fitness – it carries over into every aspect of your life.
And while I think lifting heavy can empower men, I think it has an even bigger effect on women.
I really do feel like most women aren’t raised to want to be super strong, independent, self-confident and empowered individuals.
I feel that most women believe they are supposed to suffer in silence and want only what is best for others – I believe that many women are raised to try to see themselves as selfless individuals.
Which don’t get me wrong, can be a good thing. It is great to put others first.
BUT how can you really serve others if you don’t take care of your own needs first?
If you aren’t truly your own person, how can you really be there for anyone else?
Anyway, I believe that through sports and heavy lifting, specifically, women can develop a clear and empowered sense of self.
I know I did.
And well….my WHY is to share this with as many women as possible. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen women grow stronger and more confident right before my eyes.
I’ve seen women give themselves permission to embrace qualities of themselves that they didn’t realize they had before.
I’ve seen women who once said to me, “I’m not strong and confident like you” become incredibly empowered, strong and self-confident individuals who could hold their own against any challenger.
I’ve seen women reach beyond what they once thought possible because they became more empowered simply by lifting heavy.
Lifting heavy is empowering. I saw myself grow and change because of it. And my WHY is that I want to help as many women as I can realize just how strong and wonderful they truly are!
Maybe this post is too philosophical for a Thursday, but heck it is 75, I just went for a run on the beach (YAY and ICK) and am now relaxing with a cider on my afternoon off. So…well…bear with me!
Just because you can pick the weight off of the ground, doesn’t mean you should.
While you technically may be strong enough to lift a weight, your body may not actually be ready to handle the loads, especially on a consistent basis.
So how do you build up so that your body can handle the weight?
- Foam roll – Foam rolling releases tight muscles and helps restore proper length tension relationships so that the correct muscles are recruited when you need them.
- Stretch – So if you’ve ever seen a competitive lifter, you will notice they are extremely flexible. While you may not want to do any static stretching BEFORE you workout, a good stretching program each day will help to prevent injury and increase range of motion around your joints.
- Activate – Too often people aren’t using a HUGE muscle when they do squats and deadlifts – their butts. Make sure before you work out that you have all the proper muscles activated – you will lift more that way. And part of having everything activated….Is warming up!
- WARM UP – Walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes before you lift isn’t a proper warm up. Sorry. A good warm up should loosen up muscles and active muscles so that they are ready to work. Band walks to activate your glutes can be a great part of a warm up. So can inch worms, side shuffles, skips and multiplanar lunges!
- Light first – So each time I start a heavy lift, my first couple of sets is lighter than the rest. Even if I’m trying to maintain the same heavy weight for 5 sets, I’ll do two or three warm up sets first to build to the weight. NEVER jump right into the weight you built up to last week!!!
- Steady slow increases – As you build up to heavier and heavier weights, you want to do it in slow, steady increases. While form may break down when you hit your true max, you don’t want it to break down as you slowly add weight. Track your progress and each time try to add just a little more.
- Work your weak points – You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your shoulders aren’t strong, you won’t be able to bench as much or do as many push ups as the rest of your upper body can handle. You don’t have to do isolated muscle movements to strengthen the weak points just choose exercises that allow them to be the main mover!
- Choose complementary exercises – Don’t just keep doing the same exercises over and over again. Sometimes variety can be key. While you don’t just want to do random exercises, you do want to make sure that you are strengthening your muscles from a couple of different angles. For deadlifts, kettlbell swings can be great. Glute bridges can also help. Plus the variety in exercises can keep you mentally interested.
- Fuel properly – Eating the right stuff can also help your body be ready to handle the loads. If you don’t eat enough, you may find your strength declining!
- REST – Yep. If you want to hit the big numbers, you need to get enough rest. This means days off each week AND it also means adequate rest in between sets. If you don’t rest enough between sets, you won’t be allowing your body to get ready to lift even more weight the next set!
So follow these 10 tips and start building up to the big numbers!
Surprised that she loved it
So this is the second week of my lifting class (sorry Francine that I couldn’t do one at a time that worked for you!).
And I’m loving it. But the best part is…SO ARE THEY!
And I don’t think all of them expected to…
I have one participant, Lois, who is also one of my personal training clients. We started working together in August and I’ve watched her get stronger and fitter and more confident in herself each and every time we meet.
And while Lois never gives up and is always willing to give an exercise a shot, I have to admit that I was blown away by her strength and determination in our lifting classes so far.
We’d stuck to a lot of functional weight training in our personal sessions together and hadn’t yet done barbell bench press, barbell deadlift or barbell back squat.
But last week, Lois attempted all of them for the first time and excelled! I was more impressed/excited/proud than I could even express to her at the time.
And she continues to impress me. At the class today she deadlifted with the best of them. And she survived the killer auxiliary lift circuit we did, making the necessary modifications, but never giving up.
And the best part is that after both workouts, she has walked up to me and said that it was hard, but that she enjoyed it!
I think it surprised her actually how much she enjoyed lifting super heavy weights!
So if you’ve been shy about heavy lifting, give it a shot! I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you love it.
Also, I just want to give a big shout out to all of the members of my class. You all are AWESOME! 🙂
P.S. Lois if you read this post since I know you occasionally visit Man Bicep….KEEP IT UP! I’m so proud of you! 🙂
What “lift heavy” really means
I constantly am preaching to women that they need to “lift heavy weights.”
And while I choose to lift 100s of pounds if I can, “lifting heavy” doesn’t mean that you have to do the same.
“Lifting heavy” simply means that you don’t fear challenging weights – that you aren’t just picking up the 5lbs dumbbells because you are afraid that you will gain too much muscle if you pick up the 15s. It means that you choose the proper weight (a heavy, challenging weight) for an exercise so that you are TRULY working the muscle.
For example…today Candy and I did the iron cross, which is a killer shoulder move. For that exercise, “heavy” meant 8lbs. Using 8lbs set my shoulders on fire. I could barely complete all 10 reps each round!
Heavy weight is definitely relative. Probably challenging weight is a better term to describe the weight you should be using.
But I use the word “heavy” because using heavy weight is what many women fear – and they shouldn’t.
Today I just want to clarify that “lifting heavy” doesn’t mean you have to lift 100s of pounds. I don’t want people thinking that if they can’t lift 100lbs it isn’t worth the effort to try to “lift heavy.”
So ladies lift those heavy, challenging weights! I think you’ll like how you look if you do!!!!
And in case even clarifying that “heavy” means challenging doesn’t convince you, here are a few articles/studies that should!
The Claim: For Better Muscle Tone, Go Lighter and Repeat
This one is just funny…10 good reasons why women should stay away from weights
Even a bodybuilding website tells you that you can’t get huge from lifting heavy – Breaking the Myth
- The giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization
- The giving of an ability; enablement or permission
I started thinking a lot about this last night as I was falling asleep….(Which unfortunately kept me from falling asleep and then made me start hearing creepy noises around the apartment, which I don’t usually hear since I’m passed out by like 8….)
Anyway, I started to think about how much more empowered I’ve felt since I started doing my heavy lifting/Crossfit style workouts a couple of years ago. Not only have I gotten physically stronger, but I also feel mentally stronger – more confident, more enabled, more capable.
I’m not intimidated by challenges or other people’s negativity. I actually believe that my workouts have helped me develop a stronger sense of self.
It’s kind of weird to think that something I’ve always done just for fun and to keep physically healthy, may have actually done even more for my mental health and strength.
Why has working out made me feel so empowered?
Because I’ve taken risks and experimented. Every single workout, I risk failure. I risk not lifting up more weight. I risk not being able to complete all of the challenges I’ve written out for myself that day.
Each and every workout though, I REFUSE to give up. I refuse to not push myself to my limits.
And guess what? I never fail even when I fail.
Sometimes, I can’t lift up as much weight as I want. Sometimes, I can’t run that last sprint as fast as I would have liked. But the thing is, I TRIED. I risked failing.
Just like I risked failing when I entered that powerlifting meet.
And guess, what? The risk paid off because now I’m more confident and stronger. AND I even found something I enjoy!
I dared to try something new. And each and every time I experiment with my workouts, I push myself to overcome new challenges and risks. I’m not afraid to face failure because I know it will only make me stronger.
Daring to try something new. LEARNING and EXPERIMENTING. Risking and ACCEPTING failure…No wonder I not only got physically stronger, but also mentally tougher….
And the thing is, I think my new dieting endeavors and experiments are having the same payoff.
There are risks every time I adjust my diet. I always worry the new adjustment won’t get results or will even cause me to backslide. Each and every time I change something, I make myself face new challenges. Sometimes I even push myself to the limit of my self-control.
But each time, I learn something new about myself. Whether or not I succeed or fail, I learn something new.
And the thing is, I never give up.
And never giving up, gives me confidence not only in the realm of diet and fitness, but in everyday life. My experimentation and risk-taking with diet and fitness have empowered me.
Now, what makes you feel empowered?