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Posts Tagged ‘muscles’

I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

For the record, today is January 20, meaning I tried on a bikini in the dead of winter and didn’t hate myself. That’s next-level crazy.

pants

Clearly not a bikini shot, but I’m loving my strong legs these days. Also my lion’s head garbage can.

 

By no means was there an Instagram faux-perfect body staring back at me. First of all, I’m paler than any swimsuit model would dare to be. Six-pack abs still elude me, mostly because I’m not giving up ALL of the good things in life, like the occasional glass of wine and chocolate croissant. The thighs could be spindlier, but they just don’t seem to want to (even when I was seriously tracking meals and workouts and weight and body fat percentage, they didn’t want to be tiny).

What I saw in the mirror was … OK. My abs are in good shape (I have a little oblique action going on). I’m loving my arms and shoulders — although my lifting game is not impressive weight-wise, my tiny muscles are a joy.

Finally, my legs are STRONG. They have a few muscle cuts. They can climb and lift, which in the end is more important than being skinny.

At 43 years old, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and I feel fabulous.

Over the past few years, I started rethinking my nutrition and fitness goals. I stopped having a “goal weight” (I have no idea what I weigh right now, but my clothes fit the same week after week, so SCORE). I began to pursue weightlifting not as a weight-loss activity, but as a bone-building, let-see-what-these-muscles-can-do activity. I’m not lifting super heavy – my condo gym is small and frequently not populated with spotters, so I have to lift only what I can safely carry (a good travel rule for suitcases, too).

The husband helped me make a standing desk for work – it’s hard to get sleepy after lunch if you’re on your feet.

The biggest changes I’ve made have involved food. I cook. A LOT. We eat more whole foods than processed foods. Note I didn’t say NO processed foods – we still eat meatballs from the Trader Joe’s freezer. I still make a weekly trip to Moe’s Southwest Grill with the office crew (Moe’s Monday waits for no one). We eat the occasional frozen chicken burrito at home (a Trader Joe’s original, yet again).

But for breakfast? Oatmeal. Not instant. Sometimes steel-cut. Topped with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

Lunch? Leftover quinoa. Always a salad (sometimes only a salad) with good greens, grape tomatoes, feta and sometimes banana peppers. I like the Caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but after reading  about “natural flavors” in The Dorito Effect, I’m considering just topping my greens with a little vinegar.

Dinner? I have a great recipe for chicken tacos from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by my favorite cookbook authors at America’s Test Kitchen. Also included in that book is a stuffed manicotti recipe – that one is a two-day affair, since it’s easier to make the sauce one day and complete the dish the second day.

We eat a lot (A LOT) of cheese and salad. I make a mean meatloaf. The aforementioned meatballs come into play at least once a week with my homemade marinara sauce – sometimes with stuffed ravioli (yo, Trader Joe’s again), sometimes on a bun from Publix for sandwiches (although I’m notorious for leaving at least half of the bun on my plate – simple carbs aren’t taboo, but they aren’t a requirement, either).

I drink a lot of water. And a bit of coffee. The occasional glass or three of wine.

Perfect dietary guidelines? No. Better than some, worse than others, but it’s working for me. My meal-planning is a combination of deciding what I would really enjoy and what’s good for my body. Not good as in, oh, this will keep/make me skinny, but good as in, oh, this will help with today’s deadlifts, or help me stay upright and focused while I finish making this presentation.

Good as in, I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

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Despite a general aversion to most things mathematical, I sometimes have a thing for numbers.

(And before anybody goes all “girls can do math, too” on me, I didn’t say I wasn’t any good at math. I made a B in college calculus, and I totally rock a balanced checking account. I CAN do it, but sometimes I’d rather not calculate the square footage of my back yard. You know how big my back yard is? TOO big.)

I have to be careful with numbers in the fitness arena, however, lest my “thing” for them becomes an obsession. I don’t weight every day, or every week, usually, as I’ve learned that constant monitoring isn’t very helpful OR very accurate.

Cue my surprise earlier this week, when, after a two-month regimen of running and relatively healthy eating in addition to a slightly downscaled weightlifting routine, I found that I had actually GAINED two pounds since February.

Nothing fits more tightly, mind you, and at least one pair of jeans actually seems a bit looser in the upper leg area. I can only conclude that my body packs on muscle more efficiently than I knew it could.

More muscle in the same amount of space — or slightly less space — equals two pounds. Fine. But it’s not exactly making me feel dainty.

Then again, maybe it’s simply time to redefine the definition of “dainty.” Or simply forget about feeling dainty in favor of feeling strong.

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First of all, guess what? I’m totally going to boot camp. At 5:30 a.m. Three days a week. During the kickoff of the holiday eating season.

I’m not trying to lose massive amounts of weight, although a little trim-up here and there wouldn’t go unappreciated. I really just need to get out of my fitness rut — working out by yourself often means that you stop really challenging yourself. Three sets of three different lifts, 30 minutes of cardio … meh. It turns into an uninspired check mark on the daily to-do list.

I’ve been lucky enough to inherit my maternal grandfather’s height (not ALL of it, but I’m taller than most other female relatives) and his tendency toward the slender end of the spectrum. I’m not stick-figure thin, mind you: I have curves that will grow curvier if left to their own devices.

What I want is muscles. Not big muscles, but toned muscles. And not just for display purposes. I like it when my muscles can DO things, like effortlessly move piles of books or march up the stairs two at a time. I like it when I can SEE the muscles outlined on my back and stomach, not because they’re making me look skinnier, but because they’re making me stronger.

They’re also helping me have better bones. Having watched my grandmother suffer with advanced osteoporosis, I want to do everything I can to prevent my own diagnosis.

So back to my first day at Madison Adventure Boot Camp: It was fun and difficult, very reminiscent of the workouts I completed the year that I was on the basketball team in junior high (note: tall girls may not be aggressive enough to play basketball – they may just be tall).

A workout with variety will draw me in me every time. A little jogging here, a few side squats there, some shoulder work (wait, MORE shoulder work?) … boot camp is the workout for those of us with fitness ADD.

Tomorrow’s going to be an achy-muscle kind of day, but in that good way where you can picture little bits of muscle breaking down only to rebuilt with better, stronger muscle.

One advantage I’ve already noticed: a general aversion to the office bowl of leftover Halloween candy. After all, I’m not counteracting all that early-morning work with cheap milk chocolate. (Expensive dark chocolate … maybe we’ll talk.)

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 33: Computer file maintenance. My digital belongings aren’t as messy as they could be, but they’re not a miracle of modern data preservation, either.

Day 34: Lugged a heavy piece of construction debris to the curb after watching it languish in the garage for nearly nine months. The trash guys effortlessly carted it away. Girl muscles FTW.

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The idea that people have gotten worked up over Michelle Obama’s decision to go sleeveless on occasion amuses me to no end.

There are so many bigger things to worry about. And frankly, her arms look GOOD. And I’m not even going to follow that up with “for a woman her age,” because they look GOOD for a woman of any age.

The “First Guns” even have their own blog.

I’m always a little excited to see the first lady’s guns on display. I’m hoping they inspire more women to join me in the weight room at the gym, building bones and toning muscles. Right now it’s just me and a bunch of firefighters and policemen, who I’m sure would be happy to have a single lady or two in there.

It seems like some Americans want their first lady to be dowdy (Laura Bush) but not too dowdy (Barbara Bush). Hillary Clinton dressed the part, but because she didn’t spend her years in the White House quietly hosting tea parties and deftly avoiding podiums, she caught flack anyway.

I voted for Change. I want to see a sleeveless first lady behind a podium flexing her mental muscles. A little flash of a totally ripped bicep wouldn’t hurt my feelings, either.

In the meantime, though, I guess I’ll settle for casual discussions about weekend plans with buff guys in between sets. Seriously, ladies. The weight room can do good things for your physique AND your dating life.

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