This is Jeanne, who is trying to go from super-shredded, low cal, cardio-based workouts, to bulking and muscle-building. I'm documenting her progress for the next month. I am not her coach, or her adviser, she is doing all of her own research and coming up with her own diet and routines.
Even with the "strong, not skinny" movement, there is still a psychological barrier for women trying to gain weight. What have your thoughts been, as the scale goes up?
I remember, maybe late spring, when I started freaking a bit because I gained some weight back after 200k. I felt like all the work I had done was starting to slip away and there was very little I could do to control it. Fast forward to last Monday, when it hit me that I am almost 20 pounds heavier than I was for 200k final pics in April and I am totally fine with it (and even planning on gaining another 6 or so pounds.)
In actuality, for most of 200k, I was around 138 lbs, which only makes it about 14 pounds heavier, and I didn’t have nearly as much muscle. I worked with a trainer a bit, back then, who kept telling me to (for pull downs) "pack my lats” and (when squatting) "contract my glutes." Kind of tough to do when you don’t have any lats to pack or glutes to contract. . . . Do now, though!!
IB: Ha ha, reminds me of me at the beginning of the year, asking everyone how to do the "lat spread" pose. It never worked for me back then, no matter how hard I tried. Turns out, my problem was simply not having lats to spread! We've come a long way, haven't we?
I actually starting really listening to the words that I used to want to be – skinny, tiny, - then I used the thesaurus – lean, undernourished, emaciated, scrawny, skeletal, scraggy. So, I checked the words for strong (which, in itself, just sounds better than skinny) – robust, sturdy, durable, solid, resilient, tough - and muscular – well-built, well-developed, powerful, beefy (okay, that last one just made me chuckle).
IB: yeah, I'd rather be "well-built" and "solid" than "scrawny" and "scraggy."
Right now, my game plan is to maintain my weight at 153 and fat at 13.5% until November. I'll keep building muscle, eating well/when hungry, then I'll gain a little more weight and a touch more fat.
What has your focus been this week?
This was my "Left First" week. Every once in a while, I start sets with my left/non-dominant side, because the side not working gets a longer rest. By switching which side I do first, my dominant side isn't always getting hit harder and creating imbalance. I think I'll eventually start alternating weeks.
The Sunday foam roller idea sounded a lot more fun than it really is - OW! Almost as painful as Sunday's Seahawks' game. BUT, I like the idea of setting a weekly goal of at least 1 hour devoted to foam roller. Along with the foam roller, I'll use a lacrosse ball or dog ball (my dog finds the lacrosse balls for me at the high school . . . so sweet!). Usually I target knots in my back by rolling on them. But, I just discovered I like rolling them on my quads, too. So simple, but works for recovery.
I also devote time to restorative yoga. I am really, really realizing how important proper recovery is for gaining muscle. I am, and have always been, diligent about stretching.
I do cardio 2 times a week: 1 - 25 min HIIT workout and 1 - 40 min spin class. I keep the spin class low key, wanting to get blood and oxygen to muscles without any muscle muscle breakdown. I read a great quote about cardio on an active rest day - "You should work only hard enough to want a shower, but not wash your hair."
I always keep in mind the the heart is the most important muscle . . . All right, muscular organ - whateva'! I had a doctor tell me that I have the heart of an athlete this past summer, and I really don't want to lose that.
Any challenges this round?
My neurological symptoms are acting up and creating a challenge, but I am just going to push through. I think it's the extra food that blocks the medicine from getting into my system. If I asked him what to do, my neurologist would tell me to take more medicine, but I refuse to do that. Once you start going up, it's tough coming back down. And, I worked so hard this past summer to get my medicine as low as possible.
IB: One thing worth noting is last week, you really challenged your lifts and took them to the max (less than 5 reps), which you are not accustomed to doing. Even though those 200 pound deadlifts felt good, they do tax your CNS (central nervous system). Training up to maxes can exhaust your body, even if you feel strong. This may also be a reason for the flare-up. Take the weight/intensity back down a notch and let your body recover and adjust. I've had to do this many times, even without neurological issues. Every heavy/powerlifter has to deload a bit.
I am loving any cookbook that is geared towards athletes. On Sunday, I made lots of protein bars (actually balls - easier to make) and froze. And, just kept cooking and cooking - a frittata, ground turkey/sweet potato tacos, protein pancakes, and chicken w/broccoli salad. Some freezable. TONS of leftovers for the week.
I'm looking forward to my muscle-building supplement stack next week, which will look something like:
Upon waking: Lean protein (hard boiled egg)
30 min before workout: preworkout and a scoop of Power Carb to supercharge
Intra-workout : Power carb
Post-workout: Power carb and HICA Max
Mid morning: HICA Max, then 1/2 scoop protein powder
Mid afternoon: HICA Max, then 1/2 scoop protein powder
Second workout: Power carb pre- and intra-
Post second workout: HICA Max
Before Bed: 1/2 scoop protein powder
(IB: I will do a few articles on supps soon, in case my readers are wondering what the heck all this is and if you need it.)
I am happy with my strength gains. My shoulder press sets have increased by 5 pounds and I was able to accomplish a few more reps this week!
What are your goals for next week?
I'm Introducing the courage to post imperfect pictures. When I posted an IG picture similar to the one in last week's article, it kind of made me chuckle, because it almost looks like a reverse before and after. It was tough to do because you feel like people think, "Uh oh. Jeanne's losing it. She's gonna get all chunky, again." But I have lots of support from people who "get it" and know that this is a healthier way to go. Plus, with bulking, it's fun finding new goals and trying different tactics besides just starve, starve, cardio, cardio. That just doesn't work.
I'm getting rid of feeling guilty for eating. For a moment after lunch this week, I forgot I was bulking. I had just eaten a fairly large lunch (which was a good thing to do), but, reverting back to where I had been for so long, a wave of guilt came over me because I had eaten enough to feel full.
It has been nice not feeling guilty for eating and kind of amusing how quickly and easily it was to “slip back”. And, it’s reeeaaallly nice to be able to say to myself, “Stop that!!”
IB: Stop that, indeed! You are looking fabulous and getting strong as f*ck. Go on, with your bad self.
You can follow Jeanne on bodyspace: jfpeter, Instagram @gypsymom34 and twitter @whislingypsy.