I’ve Changed: My Body, My Strength, My Goals
It’s hard to believe that for 7 years, I wrote a blog post almost every day. I love writing and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I’d probably write a lot more. I have a lot to say and I’d probably save the people around me by writing more often 😉
The last 6 months have been interesting. My goals have changed, some of what I’ve been doing has changed, and I feel that I’ve changed mentally as well. Not to sound like a kook, but I felt these changes coming on. I kept telling people that I felt like change would be coming soon. Maybe I manifested it, or maybe I could just tell that my life was getting ready to adjust. Either way, it’s not unwelcome and I’m riding the wave to see where it takes me.
Let me back up and get you caught up on my 2017 thus far…
If you’ve kept up with me for the last few years, you’ll know that in January 2016, I started working with a Powerlifting coach (Jason Kelske….he’s still my coach 1.5 years later), as I wanted to see better strength results. I had geared my workouts back to gaining strength somewhere in 2014 (after a hiatus where I spent my time “chasing the sweat”, as I call it), and by the end of 2015, I felt that I had done what I could on my own to get stronger. I had plateaued in most of my lifts and knew a coach would be helpful. As a trainer myself, I truly believe that any trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Whether you’re an expert in your field or a total newb, there’s something to be said about having a 3rd party assessing what you’re doing and making decisions on where to go next. There’s no emotion involved with a coach. When it’s you coaching yourself, you tend to overthink. I love having a coach and always learn so much from everyone I work with. I think it’s important in expanding my knowledge as a trainer and a lifter.
I started gaining strength rapidly with my coach and became totally addicted to it.
I believe when I started my numbers were roughly:
- 155lb Back Squat for 3 reps
- 105lb Bench Press for 5 reps
- 185lb Deadlift for 5 reps
- 3-4 struggly Chin-Ups (yes, I said struggly)
This past January, 1.5 years later, I hit some really exciting PR’s:
- 225lb Squat
- 148lb Bench Press
- 275lb Deadlift
- 10 bodyweight Chin-Ups
If you would have told me even a year ago that I’d hit those numbers, I would have said you were crazy. It was seriously an awesome feeling to do that!
But in January, I also weighed about 155-156lbs. I had “fattened up” in the winter, and since I was training really hard, I was able to get really strong.
The problem was, I wasn’t happy or comfortable in my skin.
This was me in February. I looked fine, but it wasn’t a happy weight for me (although I looked buff AF).
If you don’t know my history, here’s a brief overview:
-I started lifting weights in 2007 – I weighed approximately 130lbs at a height of 5’7
-I competed in my first NPC Bikini competition in July 2009 and weighed in at 127lbs on stage (and started binging and restricting immediately afterwards)
-I competed in my 2nd Bikini competition in August 2009 and weighed in at 134lbs on stage (due to binge eating and trying to “rectify” the binges in the prior month). I was told I should be leaner for my next show
-I ballooned up to 145-150 or so pounds by October of 2009 due to binging and restricting. I had developed an eating disorder through prepping for my show and after the show, I lost it. I couldn’t control it.
-I moved to Los Angeles in May 2011. I was still battling my eating disorder. I weighed about 155lbs and didn’t recognize my face.
-By October 2011, I had finally gotten tired of hating myself. I was sick of working out for hours, binge eating, starving myself, eating “clean”, worrying about how bloated I looked, canceling things because I was embarrassed of how I looked. I finally decided that I needed to just find a way to be happy with my body, STOP restricting foods, and release the pressure I was putting on myself.
-In September/October of 2012, I had made progress and was being much more free about foods I ate. I still battled with binge eating at times, but it was at this point in time that I decided to quit doing cardio (I was doing cardio 5-6 days per week in addition to either lifting weights or doing “functional” workouts–chasing a sweat and doing a bunch of plyometrics to induce said sweat). I lost 5lbs in the next 2 months by focusing on strength training (and training hard), not doing any cardio, and giving myself the break I needed when it came to what I was eating.
-Over the next few years, I finally had gotten through the weeds of my eating disorder. I felt comfortable around food again. I could have formerly “forbidden” foods in the house and not feel the need to eat all of it. It wasn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight, but by 2013/2014, I felt somewhat normal again. Finally.
So there’s my brief overview. Since 2013, my body has been “happy” at about 148-152lbs. It has fluctuated in that range consistently and has been a weight that I feel very comfortable with. My body composition has changed drastically since 2013 (see photo below), yet my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I’ve done a few cuts in the last few years and gotten down to 145 a few times, but overall, I’ve hovered around 150, and that’s pretty effortless for me. This means I’ve been able to get leaner and have more muscle mass and less body fat than I did a few years ago.
This is why in January when my weight was 155-156ish, I didn’t feel good. Sure, I was stronger than I’d ever been, but I felt fluffy. I realize that 5-7lbs may not seem like much, but the difference was noticeable enough for me to not feel my best.
I decided I wanted to get back down to where I’m comfortable (just under 150ish), but I also know my history with dieting and am very careful with it. I will be the first to admit that I SUCK at dieting. I haven’t taken off more than 4 days in a row from lifting weights in the last 10 years (and realistically, I’ve only taken 3-4 days off in a row probably a 2-3 times in that 10 years), but dieting is like this dangling carrot that I can’t seem to grab onto. With that knowledge of knowing myself, I decided to do a slowwwwwwww cut that didn’t require me to cut out too many calories each day, which would keep me from feeling like I was dieting.
It’s now August and I’m happy to report that I’m hovering between 148-150lbs these days. Yes, I took 5 months to lose 7-8lbs (I think I started cutting in March), but I didn’t feel like I dieted down at all. I stayed at a slight caloric deficit 5-6 days per week, and ate at maintenance or just above for 1-2. There were no drastic lows and no drastic highs. It has probably been the healthiest cut I’ve ever done in my life. I’m actually still doing it, as I have some new goals that I’ll discuss at the end of this post.
Here we are in August 2017. As I mentioned, I am back to 148-150lbs and I feel good. I had a few minor injuries in April and May that caused my strength to take a hit, so my strength numbers aren’t what they were in January. I want to point out that none of my injuries have been serious and as a lifter, there WILL be minor injuries. Some will last 1-2 days, others will last a few weeks. It’s going to happen and the smartest thing you can do is to work around those injuries (and not through them). Do exercises that don’t hurt you and stay away from exercises that do. You’ll heal and be back to normal soon. Trust me. It’s better to take a few days/weeks off than months or years. If you suffer from a major injury, it can be much worse. I’ve been lucky enough not to have any major injuries in the last 10 years, but I continue to be careful. I want to be able to lift and be active for life, so it’s not worth risking an injury to set a PR. I always coach people to stay in control of their lifts. Even when it gets super heavy, the weight should never control you. I see lifters all the time who get cocky and go for a weight they aren’t prepared for. Their mentality is that they are just going to try and see if they can do the lift. There’s a smart way to push yourself and a dumb way to do it. I guess it’s hard to know what’s smart or dumb if you’re inexperienced (so if you don’t know, make sure you’re with someone who does), but someone who has been lifting for a long time knows. I am always in control of my lifts. ALWAYS. Even in my heaviest squats, which are the most terrifying exercise in the world to go heavy on (in my opinion), I don’t ever have a point where I feel like the weight is controlling me. I think that is a big reason I haven’t had any serious injuries. It’s also the reason why I won’t be breaking any world records any time soon, but that’s not my goal, so who cares. 🙂
Anyyyyyyways. Back to my minor injuries.
Hip Flexors: I was dealing with hip flexor issues for quite a while (8-9 months at least) that led me to the decision to stop doing back squats for about 6 weeks. They were just feeling tired and sore constantly. To the point that even a body weight squat felt difficult as I came out of the hole in my squat. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I had some MAT done and after just 4 sessions, my hip flexors are probably healthier and happier than they’ve ever been. I’m still amazed by it, but I won’t question it! I’m back to squatting now and at my most recent 1RM testing, I hit a 198lb back squat, conservatively. It wasn’t pretty (because let’s be honest, NONE of my heavy squats are very pretty #longfemurclub), but I probably could have done 8-10 more lbs, which is only about 10-15lbs less than my previous 1RM when I was 7lbs heavier.
Left Wrist: I had a wrist injury from doing dips that prevented me from doing bench press and barbell military press for about 3-4 weeks. I stopped doing dips and will probably never do them again, as there’s no need. They’ve never felt good and always cause me to get injured. There are plenty of other exercises for me to do. This is a big take-home point. If an exercise bothers you or constantly causes you to have issues, don’t do it. Find other exercises that don’t hurt you. There is no exercise you “have” to do. There are hundreds to choose from! Anyways, because of the time off from bench press, I lost some bench strength. I was able to build back up and while I didn’t hit my 148lb bench press last weekend at my mock powerlifting meet, I still got a 137lb bench and again, felt like I had more in the tank. I’m happy with that. While my wrist healed, I did push-ups from my fists, dumbbell presses that didn’t hurt, and pulling movements that felt okay.
Left Shoulder: In addition to my wrist, I had a minor shoulder injury. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but it started bothering me after I did a few grindy barbell military press reps. Ideally you won’t go to an RPE 10 on multiple sets of an exercise, but sometimes I’m on fire and I push too hard (Oops). Do as I say, not as I do. Anyways, I actually thought it was worse than it turned out to be. It was really hurting me, but (do not try this please), I decided to do an upper body workout to see what did/didn’t hurt me. Oddly enough, chin-ups didn’t hurt me at all and neither did most pulling exercises. I was also able to do some cable chest flys and they didn’t hurt either. I remember pushing through that workout and thinking “I’m either going to feel great after this, or I’m going to regret this decision”. Miraculously, my injury seemed to nearly disappear after that workout. It was one of those things that shouldn’t have happened and there’s no explanation, but it did. I would never, ever, ever, ever recommend it to anyone, but it worked for me. This is another example of something you’re able to do when you’ve been lifting a long time and know your body really well. You know how to “take chances” but not put yourself in a position of total fuck-uppery. Once again, please do not ever do what I did to “heal” your shoulder injury. Ever. Got it?
In conclusion, here’s what happened from January through today:
- Weight: 157lbs
- Squat: 225lbs
- Bench: 148lbs
- Deadlift: 275lbs
- Chin-Ups: 10 bodyweight, 2 reps with 25lb plate
- Weight: 148lbs
- Squat: 198lbs
- Bench: 137lbs
- Deadlift: 259lbs
- Chin-Ups: 9 bodyweight (I only tested it 1 time), 2 reps with 25lb plate, 1 rep with 35lb plate
The moral of the story is this: I’m not as concerned about being the strongest I can be anymore. Sure, I want to be strong. I want to be really strong. But more so, I want to be healthy, I want my body to feel good, and I want to feel comfortable in my skin. I want to be as strong as possible in THAT body. The one that feels amazing and has no problem stepping on the beach in a bikini.
(like I did on 4th of July with my fam)
My goals now are to drop down to 140lbs (as slowly as a saguaro cactus grows) to do the following:
a) See what I look like
b) Hold my weight there and reverse diet my maintenance calories up
c) Build strength at that weight and see what I’m capable of
There’s no deadline or timeline for this. I want to enjoy life and being in a strict caloric deficit is not in my interests. What IS in my interests is to slowly chip away and do further experimenting on myself. I’d imagine around Thanksgiving or so I may be there, but we’ll see.
Anyways, that’s my update. I wanted to put this out there for a few reasons, but one being that I want to highlight that changing your goals is okay. If you aren’t happy with something, it’s fine to change course. There is no shame in deciding that something is or isn’t right for you. As one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite band goes….
“Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” -Led Zeppelin