Monday, September 16, 2013

strength vs physique

Strength vs physique: why is training for strength so much better than training for physique?

 Olympic Weightlifter Zoe Smith has it all strong as F*(&*&(K  and awesome physique. 

Short Answer:
Physique= no pizza, no beer, no chocolate, no bacon
Strength= Pizza, beer, chocolate and bacon in moderation

Long answer because training for physique is a short lived accomplishment.  What do you do when you get the body you want?  Most people will revert back to their old ways of eating and doing things and re-gain the weight and then some. 

If they do happen to keep the weight off it becomes a constant battle to keep life in perspective and in balance.  I know I've been there.  when I was 38 I trained and competed in a natural body building competition.  I trained hard, dieted down to about 12% body fat.  I looked great I felt great but my whole life was about training and diet.

If I had a social occasion I would stress about what I would be eating.  If I had a cold or was worn down I would stress about not training.  My life revolved around what I was eating, when I was eating, was I over training, under training.  I was consumed by it all my mental and physical energy was eaten up by it.  Any potential change in my daily routine would stress me out.

Don't get me wrong I'm glad I did it.  I learned a lot about my body and what it takes to really transform, but I have been paying for it ever since in that for the last 10 years I have been comparing my body as it looks now with my competition body. A body that is impossible to maintain and keep a balanced life style.

Now I'm not saying that it can't be done.  I'm sure there are plenty of women out there that can maintain an impressive physique while maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically.  All I'm saying was that I couldn't and it's taken me 10 years to figure that out and be ok with it.

YES it took me 10 years of trying to get that competition body back to make me realize it just isn't going to happen.  Why? because I am a different person now.  I am married to a wonderful husband, I have friends, not that I didn't back then, but my life is different and I've realized that there are more important things in life than obsessing about my macro nutrient breakdown, not eating pizza, beer, bacon and chocolate and my body fat percentage.

Enter my decision to train for strength:

This is me pulling 135lbs for set of 5 reps back in June.

Training for strength on the other hand is all about performance.  Constantly trying to outdo myself in an effort to get stronger. It's about setting a goal for example pulling a 200lb deadlift, reaching it and then setting another goal.  All though at some point I will reach the limit of my strength potential but honestly who knows where that may lie.  Not only that but there a mini- goals built in. And unlike physique goals it's not subjective based on how I feel I look but on what I actually do.

As mentioned above, I've wanted to be able to pull a 200lb deadlift for like forever.  Being just 5' tall and roughly 115lbs I figure a 200lb deadlift would be impressive and make me look like a bad ass in the gym.
 The Avengers' Mrs. Peel.  My childhood hero and my idea of a female bad ass

When I first started this project back in March, I was only able to pull 135lb deadlift for 1 rep.  In June I was pulling the same weight for 5 reps.  Today not only am I pulling 135lbs for sets of 5 reps BUT.  DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!! This is a HUGE milestone for me.  135lbs is now officially my first warm up set.

Let me state that again,  135lb is NO LONGER my heaviest set it is now my LIGHTEST set.  My heaviest set is now 155lbs.  In the last 6 months I've added a WHOPPING 20lbs to my deadlift.

With focusing on strength, I have gained better perspective and balance.  I'm less concerned about the number on the bathroom scale.  If I want to eat pizza and drink a beer I can. Don't get me wrong I still want to look good, it's not an excuse for me to sit back eat what ever and excuse it by saying I just want to get strong and I don't care about what I look like.     All I'm saying is that by focusing on performance goals rather than how I look in my clothes or trying to get down to a certain dress size, I've freed up my brain from obsessing about everything I eat and do.  In fact I am actually eating better because I'm not constantly thinking about it, OR if I am it's because I'm thinking is this going to help me get stronger.

 I'm happier, less stressed and enjoy training even more as each day is an opportunity to improve.

If you find you are constantly frustrated trying to lose that last 5, 10 or 20lbs.  Constantly obsessed with trying to achieve that "perfect" body.  Maybe it's time to stop and refocus your goals?  You may discover that training for strength is the Magic Bullet you have been looking for.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Embracing the SUCK: Part 2

Embracing the SUCK!! Part 2

A few weeks ago I discussed the need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  At that time I was talking about training specifically to reach your goals.

However,  it actually goes for most things in life.  For example,  I was laid off this past week.
Now for the most part, my first response was OH F(&*K, this totally sucks.

I love my job, what am I going to do now, how will I pay my bills? etc etc.

But once I calmed down and realized, you know I'll be ok.  It's not like I haven't been down this road before and I always managed, and started to think of all the advantages to being laid off right now.
Like cleaning my fridge:

  1. It's summer.  It's way better to lose your job in the Summer than the Winter for obvious reasons.
  2.  I now have all the time to do the things I haven't been able to do because I was working 50+ hours a week:cleaning my fridge, laundry, cooking
  3. I can really concentrate on my training and nutrition without pesky distractions like work.
  4. Did I mention that it's Summer!!! Beach here I come!!!

The point is, life is full of ups and downs.  It's our mindset on how we deal with especially negative events that truly determine what happens next.

In some respects seemingly negative events can be viewed as "neutral" neither good no bad. As I stated before, I really loved my job.  I received so much satisfaction knowing I was honestly helping people get healthy and change their lives, but there were also frustrations as I often felt constrained by a one size fits all training and nutritional strategy.

Now that I have been freed from those constraints, I am at liberty to be my authentic self and hopefully find an opportunity to fully express myself and help others achieve their health and wellness goals.

I am grateful for my tenure at my most recent job.  Through it I realized I do have a passion for health and wellness and for working with people.  I met and made friends with some incredible women and hope that these relationships will continue in some manner.

In closing I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported me and continue to support me.  To my clients, I could not have done it without you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rant Warning: Grow the F Up and Take Responsibility

Rant warning!!!!

I don’t rant very often at least not on paper.  Normally I save my ranting for friends and family.
I find ranting verbally much more satisfying than writing and that’s most likely do to the fact that when your RANT verbally you don’t think you just say, whereas on paper you actually have to think about what your writing and then edit.  But I digress.

This is meant to be a rant.  What am I ranting about today, Accountability.
from: Merriam-Webster's Learners Dictionary:

 : required to be responsible for something 
 If anything goes wrong I will hold you personally accountable! — often + for  They hold youaccountable for your mistakes.  Each child is accountable [=responsiblefor his or her own behavior

I hired Mike Anderson to write my training programs because I wasn't holding myself accountable to myself for doing what I know needs to be done to reach my goals.  Plus Mike is WAYYYY smarter than me when it comes to getting people wicked strong.

Mike tells me to do something I do it and in return I get stronger.  Now if I don’t do what Mike tells me to do, OR I half ass it and I don’t make progress I can’t hold anyone responsible for not meeting my goals except myself.

As long as Mike gives me sound advice and writes me solid training programs then he has lived up to his side of the deal.

So here is the rant, if you hire someone to give you advice and you don’t take it and continue to do things your own way, then you have no one to blame if you fail except yourself.
If you don’t show up or you keep finding excuses for why you can’t do this or can’t do that, then it’s your fault.

Finding an external person to be accountable to for helping you achieve your goals is awesome.  Very few of us can hold ourselves accountable to ourselves in every area of life, BUT that does not absolve you from personal responsibility.  At the end of the day, it’s still your responsibilities to get the job done.
Your coach, trainer, teacher, boss can encourage you, motivate you and guide you but they can’t do the work for you.

It’s time to grow the F up, be an adult and take responsibility.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone

Change is good, it’s also uncomfortable.

Change is good, but it’s also uncomfortable.  The nature of change demands that we move out of our comfort zone to develop new habits, new outlooks and new internal dialog that permit us to move from one point in our lives to another hopefully better place.

3 months ago, I set out on a journey to get as strong as I could.  Admittedly this is a journey that really has no end because the issue of how strong I can become is frankly open ended.  I suppose once I stop making progress that would imply I’ve reached my potential, or does it?

Regardless, it really doesn’t matter, because it is the pursuit of strength both physically and emotionally that is of value.  It’s the journey not the destination.
One of the big realizations that I’ve had through this process, if I truly want progress, I have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

In regards to strength and/or physique changes that means always pushing.  Forcing myself to up the weights OR do more reps OR do something I just hate doing such as conditioning/cardio whatever you want to call it.  This is not to be confused with steady state cardio where you get on a treadmill or elliptical or whatever and spend an hour going at the same speed while you read 50 Shades of Grey, or watch a back to back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.  I don’t do that either.

Conditioning is the stuff that jacks your heart rate up for short periods of time and then when it just barely gets down so that you don’t feel like you are going to puke, you start all over again.  It’s hard, it’s short and it can be downright brutal, it’s UNCOMFORTABLE.

During my first two months, Mike left conditioning up to me.  It was my choice, the problem, I hate it and I would find reasons for NOT doing it.  I’m a trainer, I know better, I know how important it is to improving my physical condition but I don’t do it.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the point of having a coach is it’s not up to me.  Coach tells me to do it, I do it.  It’s ok to ask why, but AFTER I do it and I do it.

So after 2 months and realizing I was allowing myself not to do it, I “MANNED UP” (it’s interesting we don’t have a comparable expression for women, so I “MANNED” UP and asked Mike to program my conditioning.

You know that adage, be careful what you ask for you might get it.  OH, I got it.
  • Monday’s conditioning 10 minute of intervals on the rowing machine: 30 seconds on 30 seconds off.
  • Wednesday: 8-400 meter “sprints”. 1x3 work/rest ratio. For every minute I run I rest 3.

BTW: 400 meters = about a quarter mile.  So in that the term “sprint” is relative because it’s obviously not full out but it’s faster than what I would normally run.
This is where it’s really uncomfortable because A: it’s been a long time since I ran anything more than 30 seconds. B: seriously 8 rounds that’s 2 miles and with 3 minute rest in between it would literally take me an hour to do it all.
Needless to say, 8: 400 meter sprints just aren’t going to happen for me at this point in my training and Mike cut that down to 4:400 meter sprints.  It still sucks but at least I won’t be there all day.
  • Friday: Kettle Bell Tabata protocol.  Ok this one looks easy on paper but it’s SOOOO NOT.

Grab a kettle bell and do KB swings for 20 seconds, rest 10 repeat for 8 rounds.  For those who aren’t good in math it’s only 4 minutes.  BUT it’s 4 really really hard minutes.  Again, if you don’t feel like you just want to curl up in a ball on the floor by the ½ way point then you are NOT doing it correctly.
Actually you can use anything pretty much to do this protocol.  Jump rope, burpees, front squats whatever.  My favorite way to do a tabata protocol is punching on a heavy bag.

Just do 20 seconds work, 10 second rest, but you absolutely have to go full out during those 20 seconds.

So who is ready to get uncomfortable?

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Quick and the Dirty: Training Log

Training log week 3/25-3/29

You would think it would be a simple thing to post my training log on a regular basis but apparently for me it’s not.  So this is going to be quick and dirty a recap of my 3 days of training for the past week.
This week started a new 4 week training cycle. 

As I mentioned the other day last week was a de-load week and I tell you it felt great to get back in and just go hard and heavy.
So without further ado, here it is:


  • A1: broad jump against bands 3x5
  • A2: Med Ball Slams 3x5
Primary movement: rest 3 minutes between sets
  • B1: Front Squat: 5x3 80lbs
  • B2: Yoga Plex: mobility move: working on mobility between sets of heavy lifting is a great use of that 3 minute rest period

Secondary Movements:
  • C1 1 leg 1 db RDL (Romanian deadlift): 4x6 35lbs
  • C2: ½ kneeling pallof isometric hold: 4x30sec hold 20lbs
  • These are done on the cable machine and it really works core stability and anti-rotation
  • C3: Goblet Squat: Mike’s special KING TUT 4x6 30lbs

3 second eccentric; pause
Half rep up; pause
Back down; pause
Explode up

These are a killer, if you can walk afterwards, you didn't do them right.


  • ·         A1: Med ball Hip through 3x3
  • ·         A2: Med ball push press 3x3


Primary movement: rest 3 minutes between sets
  • ·         B1 Bench Press: 5x3 Set 1: 70lbs, Set 2: 75lbs, set 3: 70lbs sets 4 &5 75lbs

My bench sucks, like really sucks so my strategy was to alternate between a lighter and heavier weight.
  • ·         B2: In pushup position, scapular retraction 3x5

Secondary Movements:

  • ·         C1: Eccentric Pullups: 4x3
  • ·         C2: 3 point row: 3x12 25lbs, 1x20 20lbs
  • ·         C3: ½ kneeling Resistance band bull apart 4x8


  • ·         A1: 1 leg box jumps 3x3
  • ·         A2: Med Ball Slams 3x5
Primary Movement: 3 minute rest between sets

  • B1: Deadlifts: 5x3 : sets 1-3 135lbs, set 4 140lbs Set 5 135
It’s been about 5 or 6 weeks since I pulled 135lbs.  For those of you who don’t know, being able to pull 135lbs means that big 45lbs plates are on the bar.  When last I pulled 135 I could only pull singles:  1 rep wait about 20 seconds or so pull again.

Today I was doing a true set of 3 reps. Pull, quick reset, pull, quick reset.  It felt great. 
  • B2: Supine no money drill: shoulder stability

Secondary Movement:
  • C1: ½ kneeling Landmine press:  4x6 45lbs
  • C2: Kettle Bell Swing: 4x15 25lbs
Mike had me send a video of my KB swing, which he reviewed and sent back with coaching tips. As good as I thought my kb swing was, it wasn’t so good.  I am working on a post about KB swings, but for now I’m working on “re-learning” how to swing properly.
  • C3: Goblet Farmers Walk: 4x1 30 yards? 40lbs
  • Goblet:  refers to the way the DB is held. In front of you, close to the chest length wise. Like you are holding a goblet

Reflections on eating for strength.

So I can’t even begin to tell you exactly what I ate this week.  BUT I will say this, eating for strength as opposed to eating for weight loss or fat loss is sooooo much better.

First, I’m not obsessing about what I’m eating.  Basically, I make sure I get adequate amounts of protein at each meal, then I make sure I’m eating either vegetables or fruit at each meal and that I’m drinking enough water and getting healthy fats.

I’m actually eating a lot of red meat, it’s just what my body is asking for and I haven’t really been eating a lot of chicken or fish.

Breakfast is either left -overs from the night before OR a smoothie consisting of just frozen berries and protein powder.

I eat when I’m hungry and I don’t eat when I’m not.  Because I’m not always thinking about what I’m not eating, I find I don’t have as many cravings.  However, if I do decide to eat something not optimal like chocolate or pizza I don’t stress about it.

The most important thing is I’m not stressing about food, I’m getting stronger, I’m feeling stronger and more solid and I’m starting to notice positive body composition changes.

Though, I have to go buy a new bathing suit this weekend, we’ll see how I feel on Monday after suit shopping.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

De-Load week, planned slug week

De-load week!

Last week was de-load week for me.
What is a de-load week?  That is an excellent question. Glad you asked.

A de-load week is a planned “rest” week where you give your body a chance to fully recuperate from several weeks of training before hitting it hard again.

De-load weeks can take several forms including not going to the gym at all and doing something completely different.  BUT for me it meant greatly reducing the volume (number of sets and reps) as well as decreasing the intensity (amount of weight I’m pulling/pushing)
The idea is to just grease the movements, paying close attention to form, allowing my central nervous system to reset. Get plenty of rest and eat.

To be honest, I didn’t really like de-load week.  Purposely not going hard and holding back made me feel lazy and unmotivated.  I also don’t think I ate as well as I should have.  I find the harder I hit it in the gym, the better my nutrition.  I was also extremely tired all week.  Not sure if it was because A:  I really needed the rest which is the point of de-load week OR B: it was psychological OR most likely C: BOTH A&B.

Anyway, I didn't like it.  BUT one thing it did accomplish, I was so ready to get back in the gym on Monday morning and hit the ground running.

So Maybe De-load week as hard as it was, actually accomplished what it was meant to.
I’ll keep you posted

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Training Log: Upper Body Day

I’m a week behind.  The following is my training log from last Wednesday March 13.


  • A1: Med Ball Shot Put  3x5
  • A2: Russian Kettle Bell (RKB) plank. 3 for 10seconds

What is the difference between a RKB plank and a regular plank? Good question.
If you look at them side by side they look exactly the same however, in a RKB plank, you have to hold everything tight: Abs, But, calves etc. and isometrically pull your toes and elbows together.
If you aren’t shaking and you can hold it for more than 10 seconds you aren’t doing it right.

Primary movement:

  • B1: Bench 6 sets 5

70lbs, 65lbs, 75lbs for 3, 70lbs, 70lbs, 70lbs

I didn’t think I could do 6 sets of 5 at 70lbs and I really wanted to push and get at least 1 set at 75lbs.  So I dropped to 65lbs for one set hoping that the break would allow me to handle 75lbs.  Since I only got one set of 3 I went back to 70lbs for the remaining three sets.

  • B2: bench T-spine extension

Secondary movements:

  • C1: Chin ups/negatives: 4 sets of 5
  • C2: seated cable row: v grip: 4 sets 12
  • C3: Palloff Press: 4 sets 8


  • Ladder: pushups/goblet squat

Do 1 push up and 10 goblet squats, 2 push ups and 9 squats continue with as little rest until you do a final set of 10 pushups and 1 squat.

It’s time to eat!

  1. Breakfast: Meat muffin spinach
  2. Pre-workout snack: Greens plus bar
  3. Lunch: Meat muffin Spinach
  4. Snack: orange
  5. Dinner: ½  chicken quesadilla
  6. Snack: Greens plus bar