Minimalist Lifting, Week 2 Training Log

I am about halfway through my second week on a more minimal lifting program.  Here are some thoughts and observations.

If you read about the Wendler 5/3/1 program online, you will see that each day has you do 3 sets of the main lift. There are different templates you can follow for assistance work. The templates have names like “Big But Boring,” and “The Triumvirate.” The template where you do just the main lift, with no assistance work, is called “I’m Not Doing Jack Shit.”

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Simplifying My Fitness Plan So I Have Energy for Real Life

I’m noticing some uneasiness about my new fitness plan. I’m simplifying it a lot, because I have more responsibilities while my husband can’t do housework or drive. Jennifer Campbell of Healthy Habits Happy Moms suggested that I may need to re-examine my expectations for myself and my habits while my husband is laid up. I didn’t want her to be right, but I quickly learned that she was. Plus, it is winter and my kid is driving me a bit crazy anyway. So, my new fitness plan is as follows, for as long as it serves me:

  • One lift each day, using the Wendler 5/3/1 template. Wendler’s program uses the back squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press. I’m gonna add a day of Pendlay rows because I can’t leave well enough alone. So that’s 5 days of lifting, for maybe 20 minutes each. 30 minutes if you count warm ups and stretching/rolling. Hopefully fast enough to be done before my kid drives me batshit crazy.
  • Olympic lifts technique practice if/when I feel like it, to keep technique in my muscle memory. Nothing too heavy. Or not.
  • Walking when the weather and my schedule allows.
  • Doing “on my feet” tasks around the house as I feel like it.

It feels too….easy? Short? Mild? I’m not used to having so much gas left in the tank to handle household tasks (but that is the point of simplifying so I guess it is working). I’m not used to having a clean living room that I cleaned myself. I’m used to my muscles being tired so that lying on the couch feels good. I’m used to my legs being tired and needing to rest a lot. I’m used to being more sedentary when I am not actually lifting. I’m used to not wanting to walk up the stairs to get something. I’m used to my living room being more cluttered. I’m used to my husband doing some housework, and me doing less housework. Now that my husband is injured, I’m doing almost all the housework….and I’m keeping up with it for the past few days myself, and not feeling tired and resentful about it.

Noticing that life feels easier to handle is GOOD. My mental uneasiness, however, means I clearly have some beliefs to work through – such as “exercise needs to be intense in order to do anything.” Or, “being tired means my training is working.” Or “being tired means I’ve done something” or “not being tired means I haven’t worked hard enough.” I thought I was over these beliefs, but clearly I’m still hanging on a bit.

I also have some nagging thoughts like “what if I lose all my progress on the Olympic lifts?” To that thought I respond that nobody is paying me to get good at those, and that my number one priority is my health and my family. If that means taking a little break for a while to do something else, that is okay. Once a hobby adds stress to my life during a time period when I have plenty of stress from other areas, I can stop telling myself that it is helping my  health.

Over the past month I’ve also challenged some of my food beliefs and been happy with the results. We are eating a lot of sandwiches, salads, and cereal in our house these days, in order to minimize cooking. I am buying packaged sauces and dressings rather than making them from scratch. It’s helping us get more flavor variety into our meals without too much work. I’ve been eating a lot more salad. My favorite salad dressings right now are Annie’s Papaya Poppyseed, and Brianna’s Blue Cheese. I have a bunch more I want to try. We’ve been eating off disposable dishes, and I’m just now starting to phase my regular dishes back in, now that I have some extra energy.

So, just as I am adjusting  my family’s food plan to minimize stress, so too I am adjusting my movement activities to do the same. Yesterday I went to barbell club and did bench presses, some light snatches, and some experimentation with hanging from a pull up bar using bands. Today I did deadlifts at home. My hamstrings and glutes are like “oh hey! We forgot about deadlifts.” But my legs still had enough energy in them to keep up on the dishes today. We used some disposable and some regular dishes. Because it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can phase the regular dishes back in gradually, and see how it’s working for our sanity.

My kiddo was sick today, so I had plenty of quiet time. It was a much needed recharge day for me.

Here’s to a week of feeling oddly energetic! I can get used to this :).

Realization: My Workouts Should Not Drive Me to Drink!

To be fair, it isn’t really my workouts that are driving me to drink. It is my three year old.

I’ll back up a little.

While the weather was warm, having a porch gym has served me well. I could lift on the porch while my kiddo played outside. If it took me an hour or two to get my warm up, lifting, and mobility and recovery work in, that was usually fine. My kid would play, eat snacks, and generally entertain himself.

Now though, it’s winter in New England. The gym has moved into my living room. My husband is injured and can’t play with my kid as much, and it’s too cold to get out much at all. Basically, my three year old is bored, and in mama-obsessed mood. He wants a lot of attention from me. And yes, he gets out of the house. He goes to his babysitter a couple days per week where he plays with other kids and goes on outings, and I take him to gymnastics class and swim class and the library and the grocery store and…..it’s still not enough. Especially since my husband and I were sick for a couple weeks on top of everything. My three year old is bored.

I’ve been trying to get back into my routine of lifting 3 times per week, for 1-2 hours start to finish.

Yesterday, I really had trouble getting going. I didn’t really want to lift. I wanted to go for a walk. It was sunny outside, and 27 degrees, which was the warmest it had been all day. I didn’t listen to myself though. I didn’t want to throw off my lifting schedule. In truth, it made me a little nervous to do it. So, I decided to lift instead.

Within the first sets, I noticed I felt irritable. I tried to get my kiddo to go upstairs and play with my  husband. No dice. He spent the whole workout running laps around the living room and trying to climb all over me between sets.

At one point, I decided to try a bench press. One of my coaches at barbell club had shown me how to do it the way the powerlifters do it. I got my rack out, figured out the height adjustments for benching, figured out where to place the bench in my set up. I got myself in position and ready to do a bench press.  I was about to lift the barbell off the rack.

And then something soft hit me. My kid had taken a sock and launched it at me, slingshot style.

I sternly told him that it was not safe to throw things at me while I am lifting, and carried him upstairs to my husband.

He still made his way back downstairs before the end of the workout, and climbed on me while I was stretching. And climbed on me for a while afterwards. He hadn’t napped. I made plans to go buy wine and cook some macaroni and cheese as soon as I put him to bed. Comfort and decompressing was needed.  As I was cooking dinner, I realized “I should have just gone for the walk I wanted to. I’d probably be in a much better mood right now!” I had a great time watching the Bachelor and felt better when I went to sleep.

And then it hit me….this isn’t working for me right now. I shouldn’t finish my workouts so stressed out that I need to decompress from them. And right now my kiddo is making that a reality.

The positive side is, having equipment at home gives me loads of flexibility to make changes! What if I tried something different? I’ve been wanting to try more powerlifting again (after taking a break for a while to focus on Olympic weightlifting). What if I just committed to one exercise every morning? I could do a Wendler style 5/3/1 program or a Stronglifts 5×5 model. I could make a schedule, for example: Monday deadlifts, Tuesday bench press, Wednesday squats, Thursday overhead press, Friday Pendlay rows. Each morning I could spend less than half an hour on a lift. While my kid ate breakfast. I’d be able to crank it out and be done before he started driving me batshit crazy. I could do it even on the three days of week that I go to work. On days I stay home I wouldn’t be too tired afterwards to do all the extra stuff that is on me to do while my husband is injured. I could maintain and even increase my strength. I could maybe do an Olympic lift on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday if I feel up to it if my kid is entertained, but I could take a break from focusing on them.

And I would be able to take a walk in the afternoon if the weather is nice enough that I actually want to.

So, this morning I came downstairs and did some sets Pendlay rows as my kid ate breakfast. And wrote this post. It feels strange to just do one exercise and still have this much energy after a workout.  And it feels nice to be done with a workout and not be ready to drink. Let’s see how this goes!

Happy Habitiversary to Me!

Today marks the one year point for when I set my first habit goals and set up a spreadsheet to track them . I’m calling it my habitiversary. I’m not sure I like the term; let me know if you think of something catchier ;).

I started with a just a couple, and now I have a color-coded rainbow spreadsheet to track many habits across many areas of my self-care. Not to mention a blog, and a series on how to help others get started making successful habit changes.

When I started last year, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

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Training Log: Appreciating the Convenience of a Living Room Gym

One of the really great things about having moved my porch gym into the living room for the winter is that getting a workout in no longer requires as much preparatory work.  Any parent with a gym membership can attest to the fact that it can be a lot of work to get yourself and your kid dressed, diapered, fed, lunch packed, and out the door to the gym. Today I felt pretty depleted from a high stress week (my husband broke his kneecap in a bicycle accident, and my kiddo was sick). I was feeling pretty grumpy and tired this morning, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten us out the door to go to the gym, even though I had a workout planned. I was considering skipping it.

But, since the gym is now my living room, I simply got dressed in my workout clothes, in case I decided to lift. Then we ate breakfast, and I put on a movie for my kid because I was way too grumpy and stressed to mentally engage….and then decided to put on my shoes and warm up.

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The Porch Gym Moves Indoors

It’s raining today…..so instead of taking a walk, I moved all my weightlifting equipment across the room and moved furniture around!

I had been lifting on my porch all summer…and now the weather is starting to get really unpleasant. I bought a heavy duty gym floor mat to protect my hardwood flooring. But last week when I set it up in my living room, I was really conscious of how I was not enjoying myself in that space at all. Surrounded by clutter and toddler dirt. Weightlifting is a hobby I love and I like to respect the space.

This past Tuesday I noticed the same thing: I did not want to lift in the living room. Something had to change.

Soooo….I rearranged all the furniture and made space for my equipment (it had previously lived near the door because that was convenient for lifting on the porch. Now I feel like I have a designated corner of the room for lifting, instead of feeling like I am in the middle of furniture and clutter. I am going to try lifting later and see if it feels any better. I think it will!

It won’t win any interior design awards, but I think it will help functionally. I have been struggling with motivation lately, so I need all the help I can get, and that includes liking my environment.

I’m feeling proud of how my self awareness is improving. Listening to your body can mean more than just listening for hunger, satiety, and sleepiness cues.

I’m also feeling grateful of all the discarding we’ve done – because it allowed me the space to move my porch gym into the living room for the winter. Not everyone has a ton of spare room in their home, and I’m glad I found a way to work with the space I have.

Goal Attained! and Getting Ready to Move the Porch Gym Indoors

Just a quick weekend update. I haven’t been in the mood to write and share much lately.

BUT….I reached one of my goals last week and I’m super proud of it! I set a goal to complete 150 strength workouts this year, and I reached that goal on 10/29/2015! I’m very proud, because it showed patience and persistence.  It reminds me of a quote I saw (sorry, I don’t know the source): “a river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

So, I’ll probably be at closer to 170 workouts by the end of the year. Right now, through trial and error, I’ve learned that 3 workouts per week seems to be the magic number for me. I can improve, but still recover well and still have energy for other activities, like work, motherhood, and all the trail walks we’ve been taking this fall. I experimented with 5 and 4 times per week, but I was often more tired than I needed to be. Lately, I’m realizing that minimalism can be just as enriching in fitness as it is in other areas of life.

To that end, here are some blog posts by other bloggers who seem to agree on this:

Another thing I did over the past couple weeks was order a good floor mat and flat bench so I can train indoors more in the winter.  I decided that instead of finding a winter alternative to the porch gym, I would simply move the porch gym into the living room for the winter. Rather than olympic weightlifting only, I will do a mix of powerlifting and weightlifting, just so I’m not dropping heavy stuff on my floor ALL the time.

I have mixed feelings about this decision. I chose it for practical reasons. Last winter I trained at a local gym with good childcare….but it was such an….OUTING to get there. I had to pack up my kid’s lunch, bundle him up, either clean off my car or walk in the cold, find parking downtown….when all was said and done, going to the gym with a 2 year old took ALL MORNING.  Now that kiddo plays by himself really well, I’m thinking that training at home will require less logistical “stuff” and kiddo can play or watch TV or whatever. And it will be fun to do more powerlifting again. Less technical, more oxen-like strength. Just heavy barbells. What’s not to like?

So why the mixed feelings? What if I never get used to the feeling of lifting a giant barbell in my living room? (um……) Or what if THIS is the winter I wish I could swim? (Doubtful – I access to a pool last winter and never pursued it because that would have entailed dragging even MORE stuff to the gym – swimsuit, towel, shower gear….). What if my kid gets bored? (This will theoretically free up more time in our day for non-gym outings). What if I don’t get enough walking in? (Nothing says I have to stop walking to run errands downtown just because I won’t be going to the gym there). So, basically, there is no strong downside. Only minor concerns. We’ll live with that!

Well, that’s it! I guess I did have things to write about after all. Seems like there is something to be said for “just getting started.”