Um, ouch

So the other day I accidentally ended up doing workout 1B from the New Rules of Lifting for Women. Today, therefore, I decided to do workout 1A. Yeah, what’s your point?
It’s a simple workout; squats, push-ups, seated rows, step-ups and jackknifes. I don’t have access to any kind of squat rack, so I decided front squats would make a reasonable substitute for back squats, and that I’d start light with 20kg. I haven’t squatted in a long time so I knew it’d be tough, and indeed the first set was challenging. What I didn’t expect was the burning, cramping pain in my quads that developed just as I was about to start set 2. Oh my. Apparently I’ve let myself go even more than I thought…
The second set didn’t feel particularly awful, and the rest of the workout was fine, but an hour later I already had pain in my quads that felt like really bad DOMS.
This should not happen after 2 sets of 15 (light) squats, and it does not bode well for tomorrow…


New rules, revisited

So today I found myself in a gym, with 40 minutes to kill. That never happens! So I had a flip back through my blog to find an early workout from Alwyn Cosgrove & Lou Schuler’s New Rules of Lifting for Women. I wanted to do workout 1A, but there’s no squat rack here (I know, right?!); workout 1B, however, was perfect.
The Olympic bar was in use, so some quick improvisation was in order. My super quick training session looked like this:

  • kettlebell deadlifts, 2×15, 48kg. These were far too light, but the heaviest bells here are the 24kgs. Oh well!
  • dumbbell shoulder press, 2×15, 8kg. First set felt fine, second set was a nice challenge.
  • wide grip lat pulldowns, 2×15. I have no idea what weight I used because, I shit you not, the stacks here are unmarked. All of them. So if you want to do any kind of cable pull you just have to guess how much you want to lift.
  • bodyweight lunges, 2×30. Probably need to add weight to these, but my knees don’t feel too clever at the moment.
  • Swiss ball crunches, 10kg on chest, 2×8. Far, far, far too easy. May substitute for leg raises or similar if I do this again.
  • So that was an unexpected but highly enjoyable workout. I don’t have time to do the programme twice a week as it demands, but I think I’ll dig out the book and write out some workouts I can do at moments like this. It’s far too long since I lifted free weights consistently, and I feel the love affair rekindling 🙂

    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 🙂

    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 😉

    I’m officially a doofus

    So, I was browsing through the NROL4W last night, looking forward to finishing stage 1 & starting stage 2.  Then it hit me.

    I’m an idiot.

    I totally misread the sets/reps for stage 1, and I’ve been doing the workouts in completely the wrong order.

    Le sigh.

    Now that I’ve realised, I really don’t know why I thought it made sense to do 2 x 15, 2 x 12, 3 x 10, 3 x8, then go back to the beginning.  Of course, you’re meant to do 2 x 15 twice, then 2 x 12 twice, and so on.  What an idiot!  I have 2 each of workouts A and B left to do before I finish stage 1, so I’ll do them as it actually says in the book – not according to my crazy weird version.

    Other than that, training has been going well; NROL4W work0uts every other day, with the occasional spin class and kettlebell workout thrown in.  I’m REALLY looking forward to stage 2 when I can use kettlebells for the interval training portions of the workouts; I think swings or even light snatches could work really well.


    Wow, how did it get to be a week since I last posted?  What a week – busy busy.

    I spent the weekend in London at a Killers concert in Hyde Park.  Fantastic time!  It also forced me to have 2 whole rest days in a row (unless driving counts as training, it’s certainly tiring enough), which can only be a good thing.  My weights are still increasing slowly but surely, and I’m starting to feel really confident in all the exercises.

    I’m now almost exactly half way through stage 1 of the New Rules of Lifting for Women, and enjoying it hugely. My latest workout looked like this:

    • Squats: 3×8, 50kg, 52.5, 52.5.
    • Push up: 3×8.  Finding it hard to progress my pushups, though I’m using a lower box for short sets now, probably more like 20 degrees than 30.
    • Seated row: 3×8 50kg, 55, 60.
    • Step up: 3×8/8. 10kg dumbbells.
    • Jacknives: 3×15. Actual reps: 8, 7, 9+6

    Although I didn’t actually manage all my reps with the jacknives, that’s the exercise I’m proudest of.  I’ve struggled with them since I started this program, so to do that many feels GREAT!  Next time I do this workout it’ll be back to 2 sets of 8 reps, and I’m hoping to do every rep, every time from now on.  I have to be honest and say that I had to modify them slightly; the swiss ball was next to a wall for extra stability, and there was a lot more shin resting on it than I’d strictly like.  But I’m still stupidly proud!  There’s plenty time to work on getting my form exactly where I want it to be.

    Things are looking up in other areas of life too – I have a job interview next Thursday for a role that sounds pretty great for me; 3 days a week of reception and admin work.  It’s a world away from what I’m trained to do (I’m really a biologist!) but I’ve struggled for so long now with depression and anxiety that the chance to ease myself back into the working world with something that’s challenging in a different way is a welcome one.  Taking control of my training was step one in acheiving a more balanced me, this is step two.  Wish me luck 🙂

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