Two Steps Forward…

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Two steps forward, one step back, is still a net gain.

I have been reciting this truism quite a lot lately. It seems that my 52 year old body likes to raise a ruckus with my heart, brain, and internal drive to push myself to higher levels of fitness.

Thus, for every two steps I advance, I end up taking a step back more frequently than I care for.

I have to remind myself that my general progress has been forward, not reverse. It is a small consolation when those nagging injuries prevent you from really achieving your goals, but it is an important point to make. I put this out there so others can see, it is not the day-to-day we should necessarily obsess over, it is the direction we are moving in. If I focused only on what I didn’t do today, I would be in a constant state of frustration and disappointment. But when I do look back at where I’ve come from, this is what I see: A place where 2 years ago I was someone puffing to walk up a single flight of stairs, and struggling to pick up some of my heavy pans. A place of lethargy, and yes, apathy. A place where I had resigned myself to feeling far older than my years on the biological ‘clock’. A place where I sat on the sidelines and watched my family…from the sidelines. Today, I am able to bicycle 8 miles to my trainers, lift weights for an hour, and bicycle home with ease. I have regained my joy of traveling and exploration, because I can walk, climb stairs all day long and still have energy to spare for evening. I enjoy vacations with my family. I don’t shy away from fun physical activities: Riding a Zipline, racing my daughter on a paddle board, hiking up a trail to some far off falls or cliff providing a gorgeous view. The difference is profound. All this, in just two years.

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back = 1 Step Forward. Net Gain.

I can apply this concept to all aspects of my life: fitness, education, cooking, relationships, my faith walk, and so on. It is important, when you are thrown the proverbial ‘curve ball’ to take a breath, step back, and check your direction. Are you looking back? Because the body and spirit will follow the head. Be sure to keep your eyes focused ahead, on your goal. There will be times you might have to slow your pace, stop and take a breather, or yes, even take a step back. But you don’t have to turn around to take a step back. Just like we glance in our cars rearview mirror before changing lanes, merging or pulling out into traffic, allow yourself to glance back. It shows you if you have a clear path, and reminds you of how far you have come. Then, if circumstances require it, still looking forward, allow that step back knowing that your goal for the next step is forward.

Example: Last fall, I achieved one of my fitness goals: To DeadLift 200 pounds. When I achieved this goal, my next goal was 2 plates on the bar, which is 235 lbs. In-between then and now I had a shoulder injury, neck muscle strain, my hips went out, my knee (which has had surgery twice) decided to go on strike, and my asthma decided to make an appearance after 2 years of having it under control. I confess, there were more than a few times I complained to my trainer that I was regressing, not progressing. (Confession: I complain to my trainer Ron. A LOT. And he is gracious, good natured and a good sounding board, but he will NOT let me wallow in self pity nor frustration!)

In the midst of my bummer mental attitude, he shared this little gem of truth: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Backward is still progressing Forward. Since then I have concentrated on the journey back, and on to my next goal. I know I can do it, I have done it once already. We are just going to take it a little slower this time, to hopefully minimize those back-steps. And I won’t allow myself to get discouraged again. Because I know…

2 Step->, 1 Step <- = Net Gain.


Goal Setting – Goals Achieved

As mentioned in a previous post, I had set a short term goal of lifting 200 pounds by Thanksgiving ’14.

Well, guess what?? I DID IT! I hit 200 pounds, and not only did I lift it once, but 3 times! And a week ahead of schedule!

I hope that this does not come across as bragging, because that is not how I intend it.

Yes, I am proud of my accomplishment!  I have come so far, pushing through and working around physical and mental setbacks. But I share this with the hope that my success inspires you to set goals that are achievable. I did not start off setting this goal. I started off with the goal of fitting into my clothes better, and not feeling 90 at 50. I achieved the first goal within 6 months, and the second has been ongoing and liberating. I realized needed something else to work towards, so I set new goals.
First: To get a big plate on the bar for Dead Lifts.
Then: To Bench Press 100 pounds at least once.

Once achieved, I reset my goal again:
To get a big plate on the bar for Back Squats.
To Dead Lift 200 pounds

Well, today I reached my latest goal, and I set a new one:
(2) BIG PLATES on the bar for Dead Lift!

The point of my post, and my advice is this: Set small achievable goals. Once you reach your small goal, you can set another. This way you work up to, and within a decent amount of time, achieve your goals. You need to feel the success of achievement. Setting too high of a goal can be discouraging if you happen to have setbacks, either physical or mental. Keep them short/small and attainable, resetting once achieved.

If I had set an initial goal of lifting 200 pounds, not only was it an unimaginable goal to me back then, but it has taken 18 months to get to this point. I absolutely would have given up LONG AGO if I had tried to even set a goal that ambitious. I think this lesson can be applied not only in fitness, but in life. Hindsight is 20/20, and I wish I had this knowledge and motivation years ago. I’ve learned in this process however, don’t look back, just keep moving forward. Sometimes you may have to rework your goal if life throws you a wrinkle, but readjust and keep plugging away. This is a mental game, more than a physical one. Surround yourself with support, and minimize your exposure to Debbie Downers. Cause heck, if this pudgy old lady can do this, you surely can too!


Transformation

A year ago June (which would be 2013) I began my journey to transform my mind and body. I had gotten to a point where I just became – as I like to describe – uncomfortable in my skin . I was overweight, tired and unmotivated. My body was in a state of constant ache and injury, and I was unable to enjoy physical activities with my family and friends. I just felt, well, way older than 50. The thought of being 90 and feeling this way, or worse, was overwhelming. Spurred on by this depressing realization, and on the suggestion of a friend, I went to The Biggest Loser Resort in Chicago for a week which I journaled: Here, here, here, here and wrapped up my experience here. It was the kickstart I needed to get me turned around and headed in the right direction.

Upon returning home, I enthusiastically embraced my new active lifestyle. I started walking 6 miles with my buddy, Big Girl (Little Man had not arrived on the scene yet), as well as putting a few miles on my bicycle. I also began in earnest, training with Ron Hoff, a personal trainer who specializes in Progressive Weight Resistance Training which I mention HERE in a previous blog post.

Well here we are a year later and you are probably wondering where I’m going with this.  And why did I post that grainy photo above?

Transformation.

When I started out, one of the exercises he started me on was the Dead Lift, (see here for an explanation, but DO NOT TRY without a professional to guide and spot you) for which my trainer started me with dumbbells. Very, VERY light dumbbells. Looking back, ridiculously light dumbbells! But, as he coached me, everyone starts at the beginning. As my strength started to build, we progressively worked up to lifting just the bar. Then we began to add weight plates to the bar. The photo above was the first time Ron put the BIG PLATE on the bar. That day was a milestone for me, and a gauge of my accomplishments. That meant that I had gone from holding a couple of weights in my hands probably totaling about 24 pounds to now lifting a bar off the floor that weighed 135 lbs. I was so excited when the ‘big plate’ was put on, I ran upstairs, grabbed my phone and texted the picture to my family!  (It appears iPhotos blown up in wordpress come out grainy, sorry for that! I’m gonna work on figuring out how to get better resolution)

Today, this is my ‘warm up’ weight! I easily lift this for 12 repetitions not only for Dead Lifts, but also Back Squats. After the warmups,  we move up to the higher weights. My heaviest lift has been 185 pounds for 3 reps.

My goal? To lift 200 pounds by Thanksgiving.

And I will achieve that goal!

That is what I mean by ‘transformation’. Not only have I leaned out, built muscle, increased bone density (always good for aging women) and have rockin awesome legs; but I also have discovered that living life is so much more pleasurable! It’s a breeze to haul the summer clothing bins to the basement and heave them on the shelves. Bicycling 40 miles is pleasurable, even up hills. Carrying the 50 pound salt bags to the basement isn’t even work. Carrying 4 loaded grocery bags to the car is a snap. Everything about my life is easier and requires less effort. I don’t feel 90 at 50. I’m 51 feeling better than I did when I was 40, 30 even.

That. Is. Transformative.

Everyone has their favorite exercise, or lack thereof. But I can honestly say that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE would benefit from progressive weight training. Not only does it build bone density for women and men alike, it helps to increase your metabolism by adding muscle, which at a resting rate burns more calories than fat. I love that my body is now actually burning more calories now as I sit and blog! But the primary benefit that keeps me coming back for more is: it is an AMAZING endorphin booster. I live in the arctic tundra where Vitamin D is in short supply for many months. That can lead to the blues and lethargy, a downward spiral none of us needs! Because you use so many muscles in your body to Dead Lift or Back Squat heavy weight, it floods the brain with endorphins. You know, the stuff that makes us ‘happy’ and invokes a pleasurable feeling?  I use my weight training to manage the negative emotional effects of the long winters as well as keeping that ‘fat coat’ off! (Weight training may not look like it burns a lot of calories during the workout; but your body’s metabolism is super charged and you will continue to burn that 300-400 calories/hour for the next 4-7 hours. You also build muscle, which as I mentioned above,  burns more calories than fat at a resting rate.  Now THAT is awesome!)

I mean it when I say that every single human being can benefit from this type of training, because the benefits are NUMEROUS! I will add the following caution: Please consult with a trainer that is educated or very experienced in weight training, specifically Progressive Weight Resistance Training. My trainer is a Power Lifting champion many times over. He has decades of experience as well as certifications in Personal Fitness and Nutrition. You can achieve great results, but only if done properly. Honestly, that means having a professional to ensure your form is correct, you are lifting enough, but not too much. A trainer can watch you as you lift and assess your bodies ability to handle the weight, moving you up only when your body can handle it. They will help prevent injury, which leads to setbacks, and help you maximize the benefit of your workout. (I’ve had a few injuries and setbacks, but my trainer never let me quit. He tailored my workouts around the injury, building up supporting muscles and keeping me motivated)

If you are not familiar with this kind of training, I highly recommend you do some research for yourself. If you take my advice, please, leave me some feedback. If you have had success with weight training, tell us your story in the comment section. If you have had challenges in your fitness journey, please share how you overcame them. And if you happen to be where I was a year and a half ago, looking for support or motivation, reach out and lets make this a community support group.

We only grow older. The clock only moves in one direction. But we do not have to succumb to the effects of time without having a little say about the matter. I intend to have a LOT to say about it…for a lot more years to come!

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(And here we go, moving up in weight! 200 pounds? Here I come!)