Fit vs. Fat

I am in a pondering kind of mood, and I blame it firmly on my twitter buddy Fluffiebunnie.  She blogged today about her progress with Enter the Kettlebell, and also mentioned that though she’s made less progress than she’d like towards her body fat/lean mass goals, she’s actually not too bothered because right now, she has other priorities.

This is something rather close to home for me, as I’ve tended to be overweight my entire life.  I have also been fat, but not necessarily at the same time.

I suppose this post is really just a rant against what society expects, and also against the now discredited, yet still accepted standard that is the body mass index.  According to my BMI, at 5’7” and 75kg (165lb) I am overweight; I should be trying to lose at least 5kg.  As we all know, BMI allows absolutely no room for body composition, meaning that 2 people with vastly differing body fat percentages could theoretically be given exactly the same advice from a doctor.  Madness, no?

As for that 5kg (minimum) that I should be losing, well I’ve worked HARD for that weight, I’ve paid for it with blood, sweat, tears and ripped up calluses.  Last time my lean mass was checked it was in the region of 60kg and there’s no way I’m giving up a single gram of that.  Add to which, the last time my body fat was checked, it was in the healthy range (I can’t remember precisely what it was – 20-something).  I suspect in the intervening time that it’s crept upwards, but you know what?  I’m not really bothered.  I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and fitter too.  My body fat doesn’t need to be my enemy; as a woman it gives me shape – boobs and a butt and hips – and it has an important role in several aspects of my health (hormonal health, fertility).

So I refuse to jump on the bandwagon.  I’m not going to join the angst-ridden ranks of the size zero chasers.  I don’t care if my thighs are bigger than that other girl, or my weight/body fat/hair colour/shoe size is not “right”.  Because I’m fit, I’m healthy, and I’m getting stronger every day.

So there 😀

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No flukes here!

I just wanted to drop by and say that last week’s 24kg kettlebell snatches were not flukes, no siree.  I spent all of our last kettlebell class helping out rather than training, but with one compromise; every time I walked past the 20kg bell I did 1 or 2 snatches either side.  Grease that groove 🙂

They felt good; strong and powerful.  The bell was finding its resting place at the top with no fuss, my arm was locked and back, and my whole core felt engaged and tight.  I totally ♥ that feeling!

And just to put a cherry on top, right at the end I managed one more snatch each side with 24kg.  Once again these were a bit more tentative and took a few moments to lock out at the top, but at no point did I feel like I was going to lose the bell.  Now I just need to work on the 5 & 10 minute snatch tests, with 100 and 200 reps respectively.  It looks like a big mountain from here, but I’m going to enjoy climbing it 🙂

Busting a snatch barrier

Today has been AWESOME so far!  I started the day with stage 2, workout A from the New Rules of Lifting for Women.  It was incredibly hard work but I increased a couple of my weights and got everything done (with the exception of the planks, but they need a post of their own).

After a quick shower and re-fueling (fresh tomato and basil soup – the kind with huge lumps of tomato, gorgeous) it was time for kettlebell class.  I posted the other day about how well these classes are going, and it has everything to do with my OH.  He loves kettlebell training, he loves to teach, and he’s very very good at both – all these things go together to make an awesome experience for the members.  We also have another PT joining us on a Saturday morning now too (say hello to Paul “Fitspider” Chan!), which is fantastic.  Spider is a fantastic PT, and qualified to coach kettlebells on the same course as my OH.  The members are really benefiting from having him around, and it means that everyone gets more time with a qualified trainer, which is ideal.

So the class went really well, and everyone seemed to make real, concrete progress.  What a fantastic feeling!  The first few sessions where people go from being scared of the bell to perfecting their swing are so satisfying – it’s really making me look forward to getting my level 2 and kettlebell qualifications so I can officially join the team!  Seeing the confidence build and the physical and mental changes take place, it’s incredibly rewarding.

OH has just bought a new 28kg competition bell – London Kettlebells are having a clearance, meaning a 28kg bell costs about £60 delivered.  How can you say no?!  OH and Spider can happily snatch that beast for reps, which got me thinking; I know all too well that this is a confidence game.  I can tell when a member is entirely capable of swinging a bigger bell, but is just too scared to try.  I also know that I’m still going through the same process myself – it’s not so long ago that I was scared to even try to snatch 16kg.  Now I can snatch that bad boy for 5 sets of 5, and I’ve been high-pulling the 20kg for a few weeks now.

So why not?  I got myself a 20kg and some space, took a couple of single arm swings, and blasted it over head on the right.  Phew.  That was scary….but fun!  It went up on the left just as nicely, at which point OH noticed what I was doing and said “is that the 24kg?”.  Um, no!  “Why not?!” says he.

Um…..  The only reason I could come up with was “because I’m scared of the 24kg”, but that’s not a reason, is it?  I know I’m getting stronger (thank you, New Rules!), I know that I can safely get out of the way of a bell that’s going to fall, so where’s my excuse?  Life’s too short to not take the occasional risk, so I picked up the nearest 24kg bell.

And damn me, if it didn’t go up!  It was a little shaky, took a second or two to reach full lockout, but it went up and it stayed up…and then again on the other side.  Ladies and gentlemen I have a new personal goal; snatch ladders with the 20kg until I can blast out 5 sets of 5.  I’ll leave the 24kg as a one rep max for now, but just knowing I can throw that lump of iron overhead is not only a thrill, but a huge confidence boost.

Eveyone should snatch kettlebells – it’s the biggest rush I’ve ever had 🙂

Northern Kettlebells

I’m truly happy to report that kettlebell lifting is really taking off at our gym.  We’ve had to add an extra class every week, effectively doubling the number of people we can take (although a lot of people come twice), and we’re still turning folk away.  A lot of our members are total newbies – they’ve seen this cool thing called a kettlebell and they just want to give it a try…and the good news is that our retention is incredibly high.  I can think of maybe 1 person who hasn’t come back for a second session, and another 3 who’ve come along only 2 or 3 times.  Everyone else is addicted, which means at the moment about 20 people trying to get 8 class slots.

So the goal is to expand further, and create Northern Kettlebells – a lifting club rather than a class, which will be open to anyone.  We might even print T shirts 😀

We already have a couple of suggestions for more venues, and members at another gym where OH teaches have asked if there’s a chance of bringing them a class.  Not only is this great for the promotion of effective, functional training, it means that OH may be able to make a little bit of money doing something that is already a hobby for us.  You can’t really get better than that!

Job Interview

I just thought I’d share with you, blog-o-sphere, that I have a job interview next week.

The job? Health adviser at NHS Direct.

The salary? Enough to unclench that little knot of fear in my belly.

It would be great to find work that actually makes use of my degree, which was in Biomedical Science, and would let me feel I’m making a difference in the world.  In reality it’s a massive challenge and I’m absolutely cacking myself…but what are we if we don’t take on the big challenges?  A wise man* once said “do one thing every day that scares you”, and this certainly qualifies.  But in a good way.

If I manage to land this job it’ll be another little step on my own personal journey.  Cross your fingers for me, blog-o-sphere 🙂

* It wasn’t a wise man, it was Baz Luhrmann.  Still a fantastic song though 🙂

NROL4W, Stage 2 B

OK, so you thought yesterday’s post on Stage 2, workout A was full of self-indulgent whining?  You ain’t seen nothing yet!  Workout B is a whole other world of pain, and then just to kick you when you’re down you get to do some intervals right at the end.  This is one workout that makes me wonder why I put myself through all this.

But then yesterday someone told me that my waist has narrowed and that I look healthy and full of life.  That helped me remember why!  I haven’t taken any measurements at the beginning of the New Rules, so I’ll be judging my progress entirely on my weight progression, what I see in the mirror, how my clothes fit (arms on T shirts are already getting too tight!), and most importantly how I feel.

On to workout B – again everything is 2 sets of 10 (except the cobra, which is 60-90 seconds) with 75 seconds rest.

Wide-grip deadlift from box.  After a brief examination of our free weights area, and a consultation with my other half (the actual fitness professional in this house), I decided not to do these from a box.  It’s just too impractical at our gym, and not worth the effort for the extra couple of inches ROM it would give me.  The wide grip in itself is a big enough challenge!  I’ve managed 52.5kg so far, and hope to try 55kg next time.

Bulgarian split-squat.  Why are these Bulgarian?  I must find out.  Whatever the reason, they’re a real challenge!  The boxes we have available are rather unstable and it’s all too easy to put a little too much weight on the back leg and set the step rocking around.  This forces extra work through the front quad (which I suppose is the whole idea!) and makes you very aware of posture.  I used bodyweight only first time through and my max weight so far is a 5kg plate in each hand.  It’s such a challenging movement it’s going to take me a while to progress, I think.  Super-setted with….

Underhand grip lat pull-down.  This is one of the things I like about the New Rules for women; it’s only Stage 2 and already Alwyn is prepping me for chin ups!  I’ve manged 30kg so far but there’s a lot more in the tank.  Hopefully I’ll be able to match my Stage 1 end weight for the wide grip lat pull (about 40kg, from memory).

Reverse lunge from box with forward reach.  Both of the Stage 2 workouts have 2 leg-heavy exercises, and I demand to know why!  These are a real killer after Bulgarian split-squats and make me feel a real space-hog in the free weights area!  Super-setted with….

Prone Cuban Snatch.  I had no idea these would be so hard.  I have to use measly 4kg dumbbells and even then my form is pretty horrendous by the last couple of reps.  This tells me I need to improve my shoulder strength/stability, so I’m looking forward to the YTWL exercise in Stage 3.

Swiss ball crunch. What can I say, it’s a crunch.  Currently using 10kg plate on the chest, may progress to holding a 5kg over head.  Tri-setted with…

Reverse crunch. Again, not much to say here.  Even this easier variation burns at this point in the workout; it will get interesting later on when we move on to incline reverse crunches…. Tri-setted with…

Lateral flexion.  I’m using option B (raising the torso), but may move on to option C – raising the torso and lower leg.

Prone cobra.  Not nearly as hard as I expected, to be honest.  The maximum 90 seconds becomes a challenge by the second set, but not nearly so much as the plank in workout A.

Interval training. The book encourages you to choose your poison for this section, then do 1 minute hard/2 minute rest for 5 rounds.  My posion is obviously kettlebell training!  So I chose 16kg kettlebell swings.  Then after 3 rounds, when I thought I was going to be sick and/or pass out, I switched to the 12kg.  Something that is normally a satisfying challenge suddenly becomes a virtual Mount Everest when attempting it after all the previous work.

And that’s workout B.  After my first attempt at it, I had to go and lie down on a nice cold floor for a while after I was finished, and even after my cool shower I had to sit down for 20 minutes for some quiet time.  So I’m slightly scared to do it again!  But I will, either tomorrow or Tuesday, quad pain dependant.  If you find a whimpering wreck quivering in a dark corner of your gym in the next 48 hours, it’s probably me – be nice and bring me a cold drink?  Ta 😉

NROL4W, Stage 2….ouch.

It’s been very quiet in blog-town lately, and the reason is this; after my New Rules workouts, I have roughly minus 10% energy left for anything else!  Stage 1 was a great break in and got me feeling comfortable in the free weights area again…Stage 2 is like some kind of torture regime sent to punish me.  That said, I’m really enjoying the variety because after 16 total workouts Stage 1 was beginning to feel pretty stale and repetitive.  So…workout 2A.  All exercises are 2 sets of 10 reps (except the plank which is a 60 second hold) with 75 second rests.

Front squat/push press.  I used to think this was a fun exercise.  I used to enjoy the thrill of blasting the bar into the air as hard as possible.  That was before having to do sets of 10 reps, at max weight!  I started with just the bar (20kg) and after 2 workouts have progressed to 22.5kg; yes, the smallest increment possible!  Generally the first 5 reps feel great, but then the fatigue starts to hit.  And it hits hard.  But I’m being unkind; it still is a fun exercise, I’m just looking forward to Stage 4 when I get to lower the reps and (hopefully) increase the weight.

Step-ups.  My old enemy!  I’ve found that these are easier to do with plates rather than dumbbells, and luckily the inconsiderate sods at our gym often take free-weight plates into the Kaiser room (so called because of the Kaiser stretching rack placed in the middle).  I’m currently using 2 x 10kg; not brave enough for the 15kgs yet!  Super-setted with…

Dumbbell 1-point row.  These are not a test of strength, but of balance!  The first time I did them I was lucky to do 2 reps in a row before having to put a foot down and reset; by workout 2 I was more or less getting all 5 done on each side.  I definitely need to use more weight (7kg dumbbells currently), but I’m unwilling to do so until I can guarantee I’m not going to go top over tail and kick some poor unfortunate soul in the head in the process!

Static-lunge, rear foot elevated.  Evil, just evil.  Baby Bulgarian split squats, but somehow not any easier than the full version…  Who puts these into the same workout as step ups?!  My quads are still sore and it’s been 2 full days now.  I’m currently using 9kg dumbbells for these, but may try the 10kg plates next time just to be sadistic 😉 .  Super-setted with…

Push-up.  I’m currently using the 30 degree angle option, and they don’t seem to be getting any easier!  I think that by this point in the workout I’m getting pretty fatigued and my poor chest and triceps don’t really want to do what I’m telling them to.

Plank.  Again, I’m doing these with my forearms elevated on a bench – I’m so utterly wrecked by this point that there’s no other way to get through.  I’m not even making the whole 60 seconds as it is!  Super-setted with…

Cable wood chop.  I like wood chops.  There’s something very satisfying about the twisting motion, although it becomes less so when I finish 10 reps only to remember I have to do the other side too….  Currently using 20kg on the cable, and with the fatigue of this long, long workout I’m not sure I’ll be able to increase that by much and keep good form.

And that’s Stage 2, workout A in its entirety.  It looks so straightforward written down, but it’s anything but when you’re staring that second set of split squats in the face!  The 75 second rest times are about right, though sometimes after a particularly hard exercise (looking at you, front squat/push press) you’d trade your left arm for just another 30 seconds.

And in case you were wondering, Stage 2 workout B is even harder.  Look out for more whinging very soon 😉