Saturday, July 27, 2013

Body Acceptance, Why I Lift, and How to do a Pull-Up

In my last post I talked about how I was struggling to accept my post partum body. Now, I'd like to give you a little background on my fitness journey and how I ended up where I am today.

I started competitive gymnastics (my husband calls it child abuse but we'll stick with 'competitive gymnastics' for now) when I was about 6 years old. It's an extremely demanding sport both emotionally and physically and the higher I moved up in levels, the more conscious of my body I became.

I mean, have you seen what gymnasts have to wear?

Those things are shiny, polyester, spandex.

I think you get my drift.

Anyways, following gymnastics I started playing basketball and volleyball (ironic since I'm 5 feet flat) and along with these sports came more diet restrictions and regimented workout programs. When I finally quit all sports in college I realized that for the first time in my life I had no one to tell me what to eat or how to workout for the first time in my life. I decided to treat this like a freedom party of 1 and ate every crappy food in sight and didn't step foot in a gym for months. Not only did I feel run down but my jeans were getting... snug. On top of this no one in my family wanted to tell me I was on the verge of tubby and I had to find it out for myself looking at pictures.
 (Later, my grandmother would say "Well, I wanted to tell you that you were getting chubby but they told me not to." HA. Thanks...)

Anyways,  I started to look around me on my college campus and realized that my arms and legs - while muscular from sports - were drastically larger than the stick thin girls I was sitting next to in class.

Thus began my search for "the perfect diet and exercise program". 

Geez.

Unfortunately, there's not much quality fitness information for women out there. Surrounded by "gurus" that tell you not to lift over 5 lbs or that yoga will "lengthen your muscles" (I'll find out later that is scientifically impossible, by the way), I was completely at a loss for what was true. It also made it harder that we're surrounded by images like this one...


...and they described this as "Nicole Richie displays her toned bikini body".

I'm sorry but that's not toned. That's skinny.

It's hard being female in a world where this is what a mom of two is "supposed" to look like. Her biceps are the size of my wrists. That's pressure.

 My point is not to be negative towards Nicole Richie, I'm simply showing you what we as females are told is beautiful every time we open a magazine.

I'm supposed to look like this???

I couldn't. It's not that I've never wanted to, I just don't think that I am physically capable of being this... tiny. My husband once told me I was sturdy.

No. I didn't clock him.

He meant it as a compliment in that messed up male head of his.

So back to college.

 I tried everything I could to look like this. I tried the raw food diet (I literally ate nothing but raw food for 4 months), I tried Weight Watchers, Vegan, Atkins, Low GI, and on and on and on. As far as working out? I actually used to run 5 miles a day. Which is fine if that's your thing but I hate running. With a fiery passion. It boooores me. But I did it anyways. And weights? I'd simply do 1,345 reps of 5 lbs on every machine in the place. 

And no matter how little I ate or far I ran I was still soft.

The thing is, I wanted to feel and look good I just didn't know how. Mainstream media is a tricky, tricky, web of lies when it comes to fitness.

Then I met T.

Being a professional athlete he was also interested in nutrition and fitness and helped me take on a simpler yet more effective approach. The first off season that we were married we went up to Boston, MA and he trained at a place called Cressey Performance. T kept trying to get me to go in that off season but I didn't want to work out with a bunch of stinky boys and, most of all, I didn't want to get *gulp* bulky.

That's the buzz word, right?

No woman wants to get bulky and we're told that heavy weights will do that.

It's a lie.

The next two off seasons I started going in and doing workouts that Tony Gentilcore wrote for me. It was definitely different from anything I'd ever done; low reps of super heavy weight and no steady state cardio!!!!!

So, yes. It was different. But you know what? I didn't have to run so I was cool with it.

Also, my butt started sitting up.

And my muscle definition in my arms started coming back but... wait... what's that?

Oh yeah.

My arms got smaller.

It defied everything I was ever told and I loved it.

I also took a simpler approach to nutrition as well. More protein, more whole foods, and that's it. I didn't count calories or carbs and I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. Simple.

I felt better than I had in years.

It also helped with my confidence as a woman because the better care I took of myself, the more confident I felt with the body I have. 

No. I still don't look like Nicole Richie but now I'm perfectly fine with that. I actually enjoy my... sturdiness. 

HA.

My point in writing this is not to tell you how you should do it. I'm not an expert so I don't know. All I know is that lifting heavier things didn't make me bulky. Also, being in the gym and actually challenging myself gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence that helped me learn to love myself more and I don't think it'd be a bad thing for more women to give it a try. 

So go challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and try something different. But in the end, be OK with you.

On a fun note:

Here is me (pre-pregnancy) doing a 1 hand chin up:




And here is me deadlifting (much less than I normally do so don't freak out on me) at 33 weeks pregnant:




And if you want to challenge yourself to learn how to do pull-ups, Tony has some great progression ideas. You can find them HERE, HERE, and HERE.