“Just the BAR weighs 45 pounds?!” and Other Lifting Adventures

Friends, in my race season recap I said I was looking to change my fitness goals a bit this winter– well maybe not change, perhaps refocus. Running is still my one true fitness love. But I have other goals and I have a wedding coming up in 331 days, and (excuse the Star Wars reference) I would like to look a little more Princess Leia and a little less Jabba the Hutt. I would actually like to look a little more Storm Trooper, but those are bad guys and now I am getting way off topic…

Right? Total badass.

These are not the droids you’re looking for…

Okay, seriously. Back to what we were talking about. Fitness. Lifting. Running?

I started the New Rules of Lifting for Women. In case it’s “too long, didn’t read” for you, the gist is this: stop lifting tiny weights 100 times because someone told you that women will get gross and bulky. You won’t. Unless you also alter your body chemistry, you will not get Hulk-bulk. It just doesn’t happen to ladies. So, the book says, lift like a man. Real lifts with actual weight. Get your sweat on (and your grunt on, if you must).

I read the book, and I looked at the exercise plans. then I realized I didn’t know how to do a barbell squat or deadlift– two of the staple lifts in the first stage of the program. Luckily my roommate/fiance/future husband/gym buddy does know how to do these things. So before I officially started, I said “Hey, can you teach me how to lift like a man?”

Scene: Fancy fitness club in a classy neighborhood of St. Paul.

Characters: Me and Aaron (roommate/future husband/etc etc)

Supporting characters: Mostly sweaty men who grunt often and loudly and then stand around and stare at themselves in the gym mirrors. The occasional lady, inevitably built like a Greek goddess without a dew drop of sweat on her forehead.

Aaron (after showing me the technique for a barbell squat): Okay. You try it. How much weight to do you want to lift?

Me, knowing still nothing about actually lifting: As little as possible.

Aaron: The bar weighs 45 pounds.

Me: Just the BAR weighs 45 pounds?! Dear god, that is heavy.

Aaron: No. It really isn’t.

When Day 1 of the plan rolled around, I did 2 sets of 15 barbell squats using just the bar. Do you know how many other people use just the bar at my gym? Zero. So there’s that. Same story with deadlifts at the next workout. 15 reps x 2 sets, just the bar. And it wasn’t necessarily a struggle, but it did work me out, that tiny bit of weight. Also, since I am just airing all of my physical weaknesses, ask me how many push ups I could do? Like, actual on your toes, flat back, booty down push ups? Zero.

Tuesday was 2 weeks into the plan– 7 workouts. There are 18 workouts in Stage 1 and there are 422 7 stages. I won’t go into too much detail because the plan gets a little complicated/hard to explain, so instead let’s just share a few victories in the very immediate, and short term:

  • In my latest workout, I did 2 sets of 12 reps of barbell squats at 65 and 70 pounds. Um, guys? That is 20 and 25 poundsmorethan Day 1. In 2 weeks. And the increase in weight feels great– I am working, but not struggling and I am comfortable with the weight. In the same vein, tonight I am scheduled to deadlift 70 pounds.
  • I can finally do lunges with dumbbells in my hands. For the longest time this was impossible– I could not finish a complete set (12-15 lunges) with even 5 pound dumbells. Then I broke the little leggy and ALL weight bearing lunges were a no-no. Though it is not great strides (ha- see what I did there? Lunges? Strides?!), on Tuesday I did lunges with 7.5 pound dumbells. Related: I still hate lunges and they make my booty hurt for days.
  • At next Tuesday’s workout I am going to attempt some REAL push ups. I have been getting stronger doing my weak-ass knees-down push ups, and I think I can do some real ones. I might not be able to do the complete set, but I can build towards it.
  • There has been no change in numerical weight (eff you, Halloween candy), but I have noticed that my coworkers are noticing something different. They can’t seem to put there finger on it, but since no other things in my appearance have changed, I think they are noticing that very subtle thing when someone just looks healthier. At least, I hope that is what they are noticing.

It is fun to change up my routine, and I do feel stronger, but there are some down sides at this point in the plan:

  • I am hungrier than normal. So I eat more than normal. And more of the bad stuff instead of more of the good stuff. Essentially undoing all the good I do at a workout. This will need to change.
  • I have practically cut out running except for 5 minutes of pretty strenuous warm up before lifting. This makes me sad and anxious and… it just has to stop. Right now I am lifting 3x a week. At the end of Stage 1, I am going to lift 2x a week so I can put running back in the mix.
  • Um, the scale hasn’t moved. [Please use this opportunity to tell me it has been two weeks and fitness isn’t Burger King- how you want it, when you want it].

Well, that’s that. I like mixing up my routines and taking some time away from running. I don’t ever want to get sick of running (is there such a thing?) and the other things I fold in– lifting, yoga, swimming, dance parties– these all make me a better runner. And hopefully give me a nicer booty.

So, live long and prosper!

What? Wrong space movie? Well… whatever.

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3 thoughts on ““Just the BAR weighs 45 pounds?!” and Other Lifting Adventures”

  1. I am a total believer in lifting heavy! I just PR’d last night with a 230 lb. deadlift…and I am NOT bulky! Good for you for starting this program and you sound like you are making AMAZING progress! I have been doing Crossfit for over a year now and only recently got serious about “getting off my knees” for push ups…it ain’t easy! I’m up to 6 full push ups in a row and that is HARD! I just try to throw one or two into the workout when doing from my knees. You’ll get if you keep at it! Lunges and squatting are your friends – keep it up!!!

    1. You can deadlift 230 pounds?! You are a rockstar! I am at 80 lbs deadlift and 85/90 squat, but that is an almost 200% increase in like 4 or 5 weeks, so I am happy with the progress! And pushups? Well, I usually do about 2 or 3 per set as “real” push ups and the rest from my knees. Who knew such a basic exercise was actually so difficult?

      I think the first steps of my weightlifting journey have reminded me that we often mistake complicated exercise as ‘sophisticated’ and thus somehow better. The lifts and exercises I am doing are insanely basic, but I don’t get bored and it’s making a difference.

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