side bar: review of The Great Fitness Experiment

True story: I have not been to the gym since Monday. I am a sick little duckling. Seems I may have caught Christina’s cold through the great big interweb. Or maybe the combination of being pretty run-down myself and spending all of my time at a school of 40,000+ finally caught up to me. In any case, I’m sick. Just a regular ol’ cold, but it still sucks. I’ve been taking it easy as I don’t want to prolong whatever this icky cold is. [Bonus: cold meds make me high.]

Now seems like as good a time as ever to give you my review of Charlotte Hilton Andersen’s The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything.


To give you some background on the book, it’s pretty much exactly as the title says. Charlotte tries out one new fitness activity or fitness craze for every month of one year. So in total, she tries out 12 different fitness activities. From what I can tell, the book is either collections of her blog posts about it, or summarizations of her blog posts. The range of activities Charlotte tries include Functional Training, Crossfit, Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson’s celebrity workout, Primal Blueprint, Kettlebells (I too have a special affinity for kettlebells), Karate, and more. She recaps her experiences with ‘The Workout’, the ‘Results’ after one month, and also shares some ‘Best Moments’ and ‘Worst Moments’. The end of every chapter has a ‘Personal Essay’, most of which I really enjoyed.

What I liked: Since you’re into reading weight lifting blogs, you’re probably as avid a fitness-goer as I am, in which case you’ll love this book. I can completely relate to much of what Charlotte writes about, both in terms of her burning desire to try out just about every fitness activity under the sun, but also about her own insecurities, fears, and body issues. I found Charlotte to be totally endearing, the kind of person I’d want to hang out with in real life. She’s smart, funny, and best of all, says it like it is. She’s truthful and raw, both about her workouts and her life.

What I didn’t like: There aren’t too many critical things I can say about this book, because in my mind nothing took away from the things I liked about it. I should warn, however, that it doesn’t read like a novel – it reads like a blog, and the chapters are fairly fragmented and don’t go into too much detail. Also, Charlotte tends to go off on tangents, both little ones and big ones. Sometimes they were absolutely hilarious, but other times I basically just skimmed through them to get back to the meat of the book. I sometimes felt like she included them for comic effect, but I think the book would have done well with a few less.

Stars: ****

Would I recommend this book: Absolutely, especially if you’re a fitness blogger or read fitness blogs. I would caution anyone with eating disorders or exercise compulsion against reading it, though, as it could be triggering for some individuals.

In conclusion…this book is awesome. Charlotte is a rockstar. You should read this book.


Day 35: conceding defeat

Stage 1/B8

How is everyone? Hope you all had a great weekend! We didn’t end up going showshoeing as the mountain was crazy busy on the weekend, so we’re considering going this week instead. Nevertheless, weekends (and Sunday sleepins/rest days) are the best!

Today was my last regular workout ‘B’! I would be lying if I said it was a good, or easy workout though.

I felt strong during my deadlifts. I’m fairly sure I can lift more on them, if my grip will allow. (To be continued.) However, I struggled a bit with my db presses. I just can’t seem to increase my weight/strength on this one very much. The boy said he also tends to move up very slowly with shoulder exercises, which made me feel a bit better. I suppose they are relatively small muscles compared with the other ones I’m working in this program.

My worst exercise, however, was by far my lunges. I *really* struggled with them this week. There was a girl working out next to me and [noticing her watching me out of the corner of her eye] I suddenly became very aware of my form. And it was sad. I realized that about half way through each set, my form goes to sh*t. These weights are *really* heavy for me. Coming up out of the lunges I was dragging my front foot on the ground. My back leg was wobbly. I wanted to drop the weights. Not good – for my knees, or for anything else.

I suppose this is a learning experience, right?

Notes to self (to avoid injury, humiliation, and wonky muscle growth):
A. Be conscious of form, at all times. I usually am, but I must admit I’ve been slacking on making sure my lunges are done correctly. 
B. Focus on perfecting form before increasing the weight. This sounds obvious but in the interest of increasing my weights, I think I’ve been a bit lax in ensuring my form was 100% for 100% of my sets. According to everything I’ve read, it should be that way.
C. Don’t feel pressure to increase weight every time. As many of these exercises are new to me, I should consider the fact that the learning curve is steep, and muscle growth can be slow.
D.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat; end a set early or move down in weight if form sucks. It’s not worth the risk of injury to push it when form is not good.

Here’s what I did:

Straight Sets
Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 @ 100 lbs

Alternating Sets
Standing Shoulder Dumbbell Press – 1 set of 8 @ 22.5 lbs, 2 sets of 7 @ 22.5 lbs
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown –  3 sets of 8 @ 70 lbs

Lunges – 3 sets of 8 @ 27.5 lbs (each hand)
Swiss Ball Crunches – 3 sets of 15 @ 20 lbs

Added in: Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 12 @ 35 lbs


On another note, I’m just about finished reading The Great Fitness Experiment. Review to come in the next couple days. As for my goals, I’ve decided to take my mid-stage “break” next week to think about it, so I’ll be writing on them then.

Have a great day!


Day 32: goals?

Stage 1/A7

I can’t believe I’m already 32 days into the program…

Okay, so I can. This has been hard work. But at the same time, it has gone by relatively quickly. I’ve got just two workouts left in this stage, plus the two “special” workouts, and then it’s on to Stage 2. I’m curious to assess my progress and reassess where I’m at with my goals…

Speaking of which, I’m not sure that I have any, aside from getting into rockin’ shape and having abs I can be proud of, haha. Chatting with the boy this morning, and thinking about what Joob wrote on goals last week has got me thinking that it might be good to work on some more ‘concrete’ and SMART objectives…so stay tuned for a post on that. If any of you have suggestions on goal-setting, and what some achievable and workable goals might be, please share! 🙂

That being said, I think my first goal was just to stick with a program, since I’ve been a ‘scatterbrained’ lifter in the past, just doing what I felt like. I committed to sticking to NROLFW for at least the first stage, and then to re-assess. I guess I’m doing OK in that department.

Anyway…The boy came with me to the gym again today and I had him check my form on the squats again (as it was might highest weight to date). Apparently I’m good – moving strong, and going deep.

The workout:

Straight Sets
Squats – 3 sets of 8 @ 110 lbs

Alternating Sets
Push Ups – 3 sets of 10 (instead of 8)
Seated Row – 3 sets of 8 @ 70 lbs

Step-Ups – 3 sets of 8 @ 27.5 lbs (each hand)
Prone Jackknife – 3 sets of 15 (this was the first time I felt like this was HARD!)


TGIF. Hope you guys have something fun planned for the weekend! We’re thinking about going snowshoeing…

side bar: girl muscles

I was browsing through some fitness magazines today in the gym (think: Self, Shape, etc.) and noticed how ridiculously thin and meagre so many of the fitness models are. Take this image from Self magazine’s “Get slim without the gym” fitness feature:

[image source]

I can’t remember where I saw it, but I read somewhere (actually I think it was in another magazine) something to the effect of: “The models that appear in these magazines are not slim because they’ve done the workouts; they’re actors who are slim because they were born that way.” Basically saying that many of the models that appear in healthy living/women’s magazines are not the products of the workouts that they represent. This is pretty standard knowledge among our media-savvy population, but easy to forget when you’re bombarded with images like this all the time.

I used to look at models like these and wish I could somehow attain that physique. Lifting has shown me that not only is it probably impossible, it’s not even really desirable. I’d rather have legs that can support me when I move [fast or slow, up or down], a lower body and core that allows me to lift things [like my zillion library books], and an upper body that will [eventually] allow me to carry a baby with ease.

Besides, how many push ups do you think this chick can even do? I’d give her 8 – at best. 😉

Day 29: into the final stretch

Stage 1/B7

Hope you all had a valentine’s day full of chocolate and treats! I made full-calorie, full fat chocolate molten lava cakes …sadly there was a chocolate molten lava eruption. They were still eaten 🙂

As far as lifting goes, I’m into the final stretch of Stage 1! In this stage most of my sets go down to 8 reps (gradual decline from 15->12->10) which means I get to try my hand at more weight!

Today was a mix of triumphs and challenges:

Straight Sets
Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 @ 95 lbs

Alternating Sets
Dumbbell shoulder press – 1 set of 8 @ 22.5 lbs, 7 @ 22.5 lbs, 6 @ 22.5 lbs
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown – 1 set of 8 @ 70 lbs, 7 @ 70 lbs, 6 @ 70 lbs

Lunge – 3 sets of 8 @ 27.5 lbs
Swiss Ball Crunch – 3 sets of 15 @ 15 lbs

Added in:
Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 12 @ 30lbs

That’s all for now. This is mostly just a journaling post, so feel free not to comment 🙂