I do not consider myself an athlete. I am a former couch potato turned power lifter via a whirlwind 2 year relationship with CrossFit. I never liked working out – even now, I struggle with motivation and commitment to lifting. That couch just seems so much more inviting when I walk in the door after a long day of sitting at my desk and stop and go traffic. But I know what those 45 minutes of lifting will do for me. They will keep me in my (new) obsession – skinny jeans. Those 45 minutes of work 4 times a week keep me in the best shape of my life. And I can still EAT! It’s almost magical. Now, for the skeptics: There is a huge stigma about female lifters in this country. I know this all too well because I bought into it.
“I don’t wanna lift, it will make me look bulky and manish!”
To which my husband replied that was a ridiculous statement because girls are made different from boys and I wouldn’t look like one even if I tried. Of course he was right, but it took me over a year to really figure it out.
Strong is Beautiful
The Beginning: CrossFit
I was dragged to my first official WOD (that’s Workout of the Day) in the summer of 2010. I did not want to go, but I was starting to gain those mid-twenties pounds that signal the end of your beloved youth, and I was so sick of the 15-20 minute jogs that I had been forcing myself to do in vain for the previous 6 months. Going to CrossFit was a leap of faith. The person I trusted most wanted us to join a Box together, so I decided that I would try it, mostly to keep him happy, but also to see if I could do it. I honestly had very little faith in my physical abilities at the time, so it was nerve-wracking to say the least, but after that first morning of sweat, blood and tears (and almost passing out from the exertion), I began to feel like this was something I could do! Was it crazy hard? Yes. Is it the ‘Best and Only program for me’? No. It was a stepping stone. It changed my life.
The Journey: Discovering What Works
As I began to CrossFit, I learned what my body was capable of. It was amazing! In a matter of months, I went from zero push ups to 10, from barely lifting the barbell to deadlifting my body weight. I started having fun when I worked out. I was with a group of amazing people of all different fitness levels and we were in it together. Each WOD was a different challenge and I felt so encouraged by that group. I kept going, three to four times a week, and I kept discovering new abilities. I participated in group challenges like the CrossFit Games Open. I loved it.
I also saw my body change. I didn’t get ‘bulky’, I got strong AND skinny. I kept my womanly curves, but they jiggled less. I dropped a pant size, but gained a few pounds in muscle. So THIS is what a strong woman looks like?!
After the first year or so, I began feeling like I wasn’t making as much progress anymore. I had a hard time recovering from some of the WODs and my lifts just weren’t improving. I started going to the Box less because I was tired and busy. The only WODs I wanted to go to anymore were the lifting ones, because those were what made me feel good. My husband had been talking about buying a weight set from Rogue to have in our house. This made a lot more sense because we were busy, and I liked the idea of being able to lift more. We decided to start our own lifting program at home.
Now: Lifting Heavy at Home
With our shiny new Rogue set assembled and placed in our home gym (we took over the basement), I began Lifting. Using the techniques and skill acquired from CrossFit and the programming and encouragement of my amazing hubby, I have continued to lift better, faster and heavier over the past 6 months. I lift 4 times a week, which usually involves one main lift and two additional movements (such as pull ups and dips). I try to run sprints once every ten days or so, because sprints are easy and do wonders for my metabolism. I do Pilates or Yoga when I feel like it, mostly for fun. The point is, I am doing what works for me. If I don’t like something, I change it. Keeping it interesting is important. That way I don’t give in to my inner couch potato.
To work on strength gains, we are currently using Wendler 5/3/1 for Powerlifting for our programming. It is designed to increase overall strength and improve performance on the four basic lifts: Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press and Press (we added Power Cleans too). I’m also working on several gymnastic movements like Handstands, Pull ups, Dips and Leg Levers.
All of this can be done on your own – you don’t have to seek out a personal trainer (though, for safety, it would be helpful). I bet your current, or former, gym has the equipment you need. This Catalyst Athletics Starter Program is a good guide. All it takes it a little motivation to start – and determination to see it through.