Archive for November, 2014

So since my last post I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that disability issues play out in fitness. And it keeps bringing to mind the “supercrip” stereotype. This something I’ve been thinking a lot about but struggling to put into words my thoughts. Particularly because those identified as “inspiring” are typically folks with different disabilities than me- typically folks with visible disabilities. All my disabilities are invisible, people look at me and they see a healthy, able-bodied girl. That’s not who I am, but it’s what people assume because I don’t use a wheelchair or a cane or have any other visible identifier of disability. That assumption is frustrating, but that’s a topic for another time, right now I merely am trying to explain that my experiences with disabilities are very different than those who have visible disabilities.

Still, there something that doesn’t often sit right with me about the frequent use of photos and videos of people with visible disabilities engaged in various fitness activities as inspiration. It does bring to mind this quote from the bitch magazine article though:

Supercrip provides a way for non-disabled folks to be “inspired” by persons with disabilities without actually questioning—or making changes to—how persons with disabilities are treated in society.

I think this hits the nail on the head for what makes me uncomfortable. For all the times I’ve seen photos or videos of people with disabilities lifting/running/swimming/doing yoga/et cetera with commentary on how inspiring it is, I’ve never seen those posts include commentary on the experiences of people with disabilities in the fitness world. Especially given barriers to access, stereotypes, and discrimination that people with visible disabilities often face. There are many who would assume those with visible disabilities are not capable of engaging in these activities, and so I doubt that these individuals have never run into problems with gyms of people, possibly even staff, assuming they shouldn’t be there or using certain equipment. Given the issues of accessibility people with certain disabilities (especially those who use wheelchairs) face all the time, it would be odd to me if gyms and fitness related events where the one area where this is never a problem. But this is never the discussion. Rather, it’s people without disabilities sharing images/videos of people with disabilities, for the purpose of inspiring other people without disabilities. It treats people with disabilities as people who exist solely to make people without disabilities feel good.

And it also veers often into assuming that all disabilities are the same or can be hierarchically ranked. I mention in my most recent post on spoons, the experiences of a particular disability is different for different people, and can even be different for the same person at different points in times. As well, as I’ve discussed before, different disabilities are different. It’s not always a matter of better or worse, just different. I don’t have the same experiences as a person who uses a wheelchair, and they do not have the experiences as I do. The experiences are simply different.

Let’s just start straight off with what got me annoyed at this mentality this time around. Someone posted online that they were upset they wouldn’t get to workout that day because they were working a 12 hour shift. And I get that frustration. I hate when I really want to workout, but other things get in the way- thankfully I’m not doing 12-16 hour days between work and school anymore. Still there are times when I have a paper I need to work on and I just can’t afford to take time away from that to work out. It happens. It’s life.

Except the responses to this person saying that were all “I work 12 hour shifts and still work out everyday! No excuses!”

I don’t know the person who said this, I don’t know their life or abilities, but it pisses me off when people assume that all people have the same capabilities for all things.

Which lad to me looking up again this article on spoon theory. I love this article so much.

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day.

I know this feeling so well. I still have to battle my own denial, where I want to think I can do all the things and just ignore my limitations, but I can’t. I literally can’t.

And as described there, the same s true for me- there are good days and there are bad days. I think pretty much everyone with a chronic illness has that. Some days I really can’t even function at all. And some days I actually feel pretty normal.

But I still get frustrated that I can’t just do things like healthy people. Things have to be different for me, and nothing is ever as predictable.

I’ve gotten a lot better at working out regularly since I’m not working currently, instead focusing on school. It means I have more spoons that aren’t being used for work that I can allocate some toward work outs instead.

I am just really sick though of this mentality that all people have the same capabilities at all times. Even if you take two people with the same illness they are not going to have the exact same experiences with and problems from. Heck, remember that good days and bad days part? That means you can take the same person and they will not have the same experience and problems with an illness on different days.

And this is the kind of crap that pisses me off about the “no excuses” line that is always thrown around on fitness sites.

And as if dealing with chronic illnesses doesn’t make me feel different and shitty enough, I can’t even express frustration about them keeping me from a workout without someone who doesn’t have to deal with these issues coming along to tell me how they still get in their workout no matter what, so I have no excuse for not ether.

Which btw, my illnesses aren’t excuses, they are just shitty facts of life for me that I have to deal with. 

So I was informed by someone recently that Jim Wendler, who created the 5/3/1 lifting program I’m following right now, is a misogynist.

Not sure the exact details of that, but then I came across a Q & A from him, in which he multiple times tells people not to “be a vag” or a pussy.  And apparently he has also coined the term “north of vag”, apparently a response to frustration at the “emasculation” of society and lifting. (eye-rolling so hard right now).

He’s also the same dude who mentions the program putting hair on your chest.

Personally I prefer not to have hair on my chest and I am a fan of vaginas.

And given that vaginas play an important role in the process of giving birth to new life, created within women’s bodies, I think vaginas are pretty damn strong and capable of much more impressive feats than just lifting heavy weights.

Maybe that’s why Wendler has such a problem with vaginas? I think he might just be jealous of their awesomeness…

Calories vs Health

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

So I’ve posted before about how much I hate calorie counting, yet I do it right now as I work on trying to get my macro ratios balanced better (so even though my focus isn’t calorie counting so much, it ends up a part of it.)

As I was cooking dinner today and thinking how annoying calorie counting can be when it comes to things you make where you wouldn’t normally exactly measure quantities but just go based on the amount needed until you get the desired result/consistency, it got me thinking about how counting calories is much easier when you are eating more processed, packaged food.

I use myfitnesspal to track macros because it’s the easiest method I’ve found so far, and I hear people a lot talk about how great the barcode scanner is, and you get more accuracy with it…. that’s cool, but a lot of what I eat doesn’t have barcodes.

And this is one reason I call bullshit on the claim that counting calories encourages people to eat better. Counting calories encourages people to associate “healthy” or “good” with low calorie, nothing more. I saw this as someone who has spent many, many years of my life counting calories. It encourages thinking in terms of calories only.

Going strictly by a view of “lower calories are better” drinking several 2 liter bottles of diet pop a day is just as healthy as drinking water- both are zero calories! And that diet pop is actually better than water with lemon juice, because lemon juice has calories. In reality when it comes to what is actually healthier though, water is a better option than diet pop.

I’ve never been a diet pop drinker and artificial sweeteners trigger migraines for me too, but still back when I was counting calories and just thinking in terms of calories, there was a lot of terribly unhealthy stuff I ate, but as long as within my calorie limit, I didn’t give any thought to whether or not what I was eating was food that was actually nourishing or not. All that mattered was calories.

Which is of course an extension of the obsession with weight as health. Plenty of folks will say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and thus if you are eating below the calories you use, whatever you eat you should still lose weight. But even if you do lose weight under that, that does not mean you are eating healthier! There is this ridiculous idea encouraged by our society’s obsession with weight loss that healthy eating simply means eating in a means that either causes weight loss or maintains a low weight. So if all you eat and drink is Mountain Dew and Pixie Sticks, we call that “healthy”, just as long as you maintain a low weight on them. Meanwhile eating a more balanced, nutrient rich diet of fresh foods and limiting processed foods is defined as unhealthy if you aren’t thin (or at least losing weight) eating that way.

And again, the all processed and packaged food diet is the one that is easiest for calorie counting! You have packages you can easily consult for accurate calorie content.

When I complained online about people who enter and share foods on mfp where they have only entered calories and left everything else blank (because obviously calories are the only thing that matter to anyone), several folks commented talking about how they gave up trying to track macros because when tracking things like green beans different sources have vastly different information for how many carbs per gram they have.

Honestly I avoid such concerns by just not overthinking whether or not the info I have for green beans is really accurate or actually only a third the carbs it really was. Technically that makes a huge difference, but I’m just not worrying that much about it. I’m tracking macros right now because it’s helping me get better at eating more protein, and that’s what matters to me.

I just posted on my facebook about being amused that I’ve pretty much become the stereotypical man-hating, lesbian feminist who wears combat boots.

And I was thinking more about this, and how I wear combat boots all the time these days- but but often with dresses and such. So being femme even though I wear combat boots I don’t look like the stereotype of a lesbian.

Which then got me thinking about being fat, which is often a stereotypical lesbian trait. The awesome Lea Delaria had some asshole comment on her twitter I think it was about how she was a walking stereotype being a fat, butch lesbian.

But I’m fat and femme. And these often feel like contradicting points to me. Even though they are not at all. But if you were to say “fat lesbian” I think most people would be more likely to picture someone who looks like Lea Delaria than Mary Lambert.

Speaking of which, how adorable are they! *swoon*

On the other hand I follow a lesbian page on facebook that primarily talks about femme visibility. It’s cool, but I notice a lot of the time there is stuff I just can’t relate to, because “femme” ends up being used to mean “conventionally attractive”, but the two are not necessarily the same thing. I’m femme. I’m attractive in my own way, but I’m not conventionally attractive. And the biggest part of that is because I’m fat.

#fatfemmeproblems

I’m just going to leave this there because I’ve been drinking and I’m not sure how to nicely conclude my rambling thoughts on this.

Plus Size Swimwear Lookbook

Posted: November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

I love this woman’s video and message!

Text of the monologue over the video:

This is my body. This is the body of someone who has struggled with an eating disorder. This body is misunderstood. When people see it they assume I sit on the couch and eat McDonald’s all day, when in reality I’ve never even seen a Big Mac in person. They tell me it’s wrong. “It’s not okay to be fat,” they’ll say. “You need to be healthy. Lose some weight.” But then when they see me at the gym, they whisper and giggle just loudly enough for me to hear. I’m a joke, something to be put in a hole until I’m pretty by the standards of society.

But before you tell me what’s wrong with this body, let me tell you what’s right. This body can run for miles and not give out on me. This body is strong. This body has curves. It has muscle and it has cellulite. This body is fueled with healthy foods, but doesn’t fail if I feed it improperly from time to time. This is the body of a size 14, the average size of the American woman. And it should be represented the way it is: beautiful. This is the only body I will have for the rest of my life. It shows my struggles and it shows my progress. Why shouldn’t I be proud of it? Why shouldn’t it be celebrated? Why shouldn’t the path to health be every bit as beautiful as the finished result? I am thankful for what this body has done for me. I am thankful for the healthy path I have taken, both mentally and physically. I am proud of what I’ve overcome.

This is my body.

My favorite part is “’You need to be healthy. Lose some weight.’ But then when they see me at the gym, they whisper and giggle just loudly enough for me to hear”.

Ok, I’m going off topic for a second, on a feminist ran unrelated to fitness or body image and fat acceptance stuff.

I was reminded today about an issue I have with the representation of women in tv shows and movies.

To clarify my title here, it’s not that I dislike strong female characters- it’s that they are not enough, in my opinion. And I’m sick of being told that token strong female characters should make up for the overall lack of representation of women.

I am still a fan of the Bechdel test. Which for those who don’t is a “test” that came Allison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For (btw, very cool comic). A character in the strip says she will not see any movie that does not have at least two women characters, who talk to each other, about something other than a man. The last movie she had seen in theaters was Alien in 1978. Since then many have expanded the test, to better represent the thought behind it, that the two women be named characters.

I don’t use the Bechdel test as the character in the comic did- I see movies in theaters that fail it, I watch movies and tv shows that fail it. I even enjoy movies and tv shows that fail it.

But I still think it’s useful in pointing out the utter crap that is representation of women.

One criticism I’ve seen of the test is that it fails to account for a film that fails it but still has an awesome, strong, female character.

But there is still something wrong when we are given these strong female characters who exist in a fictional universe that does not represent reality in a gendered sense. Approximately half the world’s population is female, and in many countries (including the US) we are actually a slight majority. There is no good reason that women should not also account for half of characters, including names characters, in television and films. And for all the women out there, when was the last time you talked to another woman about something other than a man? I’m guessing it was pretty recently. And happens fairly often in your life. I know it does for me. I have a sister I talk to about things other than men, a mother I talk to about things other than men, Aunts I talk to about things other than men, women classmates, colleagues, and professors who I talk to about things other than men, et cetera. To not meet these very basic requirements is to represent a huge break from reality when it comes to gender.

I love strong female characters, I just want them to exist in a fictional universe to accurately reflects that women exist as we do in reality. I don’t want strong female characters who exist in this vacuum devoid of any other women.

I mean, take for example Avengers. Black Widow is an awesome and badass character and that is awesome! And yet on a team of 6 superheroes we has one woman. And that’s par for the course for representation of women. Representation ranges 0-1. No one questions 5 superheroes who are men but if we reversed that ratio it would be a huge deal, it would probably be called out as some feminist attack on culture, and certainly would be deemed a film for women only. But 5 men and 1 woman? Totally a fair representation that has appeal to men and women.

And of course despite her awesomeness Black Widow has yet to get her own movie. Two Iron Man movies before the first avengers and no Black Widow movie. Three movies total for the asshole playboy character, and zero for the sole woman on the team.

And Black Widow isn’t even the only badass woman in the Avengers. Yet, while we get scenes of Agent Coulson and Steve Rogers talking about Captain America collectibles, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner talking about science, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers talking about Weapons, Tony Stark and Thor talking about Shakespeare, et cetera, et cetera, we don’t ever get Natasha Romanoff and Agent Hill talking about the tesseract, or fighting aliens, or how much it sucks being the only women in shield, or whatever else. How about anything to suggest that Black Widow exists in a world were she is not the only woman, and interacts with other women in the world as well?

Not that I think throwing in that just to “pass” a test is a good thing. In fact, the biggest problem I think with the Bechdel test is the idea that passing it is a big deal, or trying to pass on a technicality only. Rather passing should be standard and really films and tv shows should be far exceeding those minimalist “requirements” for representation of women.

5/3/1 Wave A completed

Posted: November 13, 2014 in training
Tags: , , ,

So I finished the my first time doing “wave a”, ie the first week, of 5/3/1. Took me a week and a half instead of a week though, because life happens.

I’m looking forward to the next week with higher % lifts.

I’ve still yet to figure out fractional issues so I’m still rounding everything to the nearest 5lbs.

So far I am still loving being able to focus a bit more on upper body than I was before.

Speaking of which, look! I almost look like I have arm muscles! (was actually trying to get a photo of my workout outfit).

This is the reason I started doing 5/3/1 and I like it. I definitely feel like I’ve gotten a better upper body workout this past week and a half than I had been getting trying to follow stronglifts.

I also like the flexibility of the assistance work, since it’s optional. I have yet to do a “jack shit” workout- never done only the main lifts. But my squats workout was a short one for me. I was exhausted and did the main lifts, 5 sets of 10 at 40% for squats, and then 5 sets of 10 hip thrusts with the bar only. Which is a short workout for me, lol.

But it’s nice that if I have the time and energy I can add in all kinds of extra stuff. And if I don’t, the main part is short and quick. So I’m liking that.

So that’s my update I guess, lol.

So I mentioned recently that I don’t really talk a lot about my training and workouts here except a few mentions of my programs.

But maybe I should. And by “should”, I mean it’s my blog, so why the heck not?

So on that topic:

I mentioned recently switching to 5/3/1 from Stronglifts.

For those not familiar let me start with a brief overview of how each program works. I’ll throw this in a different color so that you can easily skip past this if you already know about these prorams.

Stronglifts has two workouts, A and B, and  5 lifts. The lifts used in Stronglifts are the barbell squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. These are arranged into two workouts:

Workout A:

Squat

Bench Press

Barbell Row

Workout B:

Squat

Overhead Press

Deadlift

For each of these you do 5 working sets of 5 reps, each time you successfully do your 5×5 you add 5lbs to the weight you life nextime. Along with the 5 working sets they recommend a number or warmup sets. I was doing about 4 warmup sets for squats and then 2 warm up sets for the others usually. So it’s more than 5 sets if you count warmups. And stronglifts recommends doing these 3 times a week alternating A and B.

As you can see with stronglifts, you would be increasing weight very fast if you don’t stall at any weight.
As I mentioned, I decided to switch to 5/3/1/ because I was always exhausted after all those squats and was not progressing in any other lifts anymore.

5/3/1 has 4 workouts focusing on 4 lifts. The 4 lifts are the barbell squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. So 5/3/1 does not include the barbell row as a primary lift. Each of the 4 workouts then is focused on one and only 1 primary lift.

Using this website as a guide for each lift you progress through 4 “waves”. For each it recommend 3 warmup sets. 40% x5reps, 50%x 5 reps, 60%x 3 reps.

After the warmup you do 3 working sets. For wave A you do 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5, Wave B is 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3, Wave C 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1 and then Wave D is a deload wave at 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5. 

So they weight is all based on percent of your 1 rep max. The website I linked has a calculation to estimate your 1 rep max if you’ve never tried to max out for 1 rep on a lift. 

But wait! Not that simple! You are actually supposed to consider 90% of that to be your 1 rep max for purposes of the program. So you calculate a 1 rep max, then take 90% of that, then take whichever percentage of that.

Oh, and after you complete the 4 waves you then add 5lbs for upper-body and 10lbs for lower body to your 1RM to repeat the 4 waves based on that

In addition to the 1 lift each workout, you can do some optional assistance work after.

As you can see 5/3/1 is not really as simple as stronglifts in terms of simplicity of the set up.

As I already mentioned the main reason I’m switching is because I like being able to focus on one primary lift each workout and not being exhausted from squats before all my upper body lifts.

So having just started with 5/3/1 here are some of my thoughts:

1. It’s more complicated! 

So I’ve read around several different sites explaining 5/3/1, I still f-ed up on my understanding of it the first workout.

2. It feels so much lighter and easier!

For the main lifts I’m doing fewer sets and lighter weights than I was used to with strong lifts. Which I’m trying to trust the prescribed progression of this and not feel like I’m just always going backward. I do still wonder if I should just use my actual calculated 1 rep max instead of taking 90% of it. I read that 90% was in part to counterbalance people who would overestimate their one rep max by using a previous max when they aren’t currently lifting that heavy, and people using really bad form to get their max weight. My numbers are either a 1 rep max I’ve done recently or calculated from recent weights I’ve done at higher reps.

And with 5/3/1 you are changing your weight each set and only doing 3 working sets.

3. Progress is prescribed at a lower rate.

And I think part of this is that my weights are way lower than what seems the expectation of where folks start 5/3/1 at. so adding 5 or 10lbs to the 1 RM and then calculating a percent of that seems a small increase compared to adding 5lbs (or 10 for deadlift) each time to the weight you lift. And with my 1RM numbers being small already. Plus this is a slight problem in that I don’t have fractional plates, so right now the smallest weight increase I can do is 5lbs (or I guess 2.5lb if I had an imbalanced bar). And why the heck are fractonal plates so friggin expensive? Amazon has a set totaling 5 lbs (set of 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, 3/4 lb and 1 lb) for $60. $60 for 5 lbs? Am I the only one who thinks that sounds completely ridiculous? So right now I’m trying to think of another way I can add small amounts of weight to my bar that don’t involve spending $60 for 5 measly lbs.

4. I’m doing more assistance work than seems recommended. 

So reading around I see a lot of folks saying no more than 1-2 assistance exercises per workout.

I did 5 with my first, which was bench- also I’m out of order because I did 5×5 squats the day before I switched so I’m doing bench, deadlift, ohp, squat instead of squat, bench, deadlift, ohp.

I planned for 4 with deadlifts but stopped after 3.

I keep seeing that the important part is that assistance work doesn’t take away from the main lift. So my feeling is, if all my assistance work is after the main lift, it shouldn’t be making a different to my main lift. Basically how I’ve been planning it is start with major lift, the assistance work in prioritized in order, so whenever I get exhausted and can’t do more (or run out of time) I  stop.

Also right now some of my “assistance work” is just extra stuff I want to throw in, more than stuff they recommend. Like I want to keep doing barbell rows so now I am calling that “assistance work”. I also love hip thrusts for more glute work, so I’m going to call that “assistance work”. So I’m kind of just making stuff up and doing whatever for that.

5. I’m doing low weight, high rep and it feels so weird.

So another recommendation for assistance work is “big and boring”. doing 5 sets of 10 reps at a low weight. This is mostly recommended for use with the main lift. So after the prescribed sets, reps, and weights for the main lift, I then aim to do 5 sets of 10 reps at 40% weight. Since I didn’t really know what to do for weight, reps, and sets for the other assistance work, I’ve decided to adopt this for all the assistance work for now.

It feels really weird doing high rep, low weight :-\

Well, technically it says to increase this weight percentage overtime too to whatever works out as the max you can do for 8-10 rep. Still lower weight and higher rep than I’m used to though.

Which I may then be able to fit less assistance work once I’m doing more weights. Also less with lower body because that always takes more out of me than upper body lifts- which also maybe will change once I get my weights higher with upper body.

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Me doing hip thrusts after deadlifts.

So, there’s where my thoughts are on this right now.

I just thought of this today as I was browsing the internet and stumbled across some tips on weight loss that says how you need to hide away unhealthy foods so they won’t tempt you.

And as I read that I glance across my living room at 9 bags of Halloween candy just laying out. Anyone want to guess how much of that candy I have eaten today? Well the answer is none. And honestly I have no desire to eat any right now. I had some on Halloween night after I realized I was not getting near enough trick or treaters to need it all. (I got 3 btw. 3 kids total all night.) But I haven’t had any since.

And this isn’t an attempt at bragging. Certainly not about my massive will power. Actually my point is will power has nothing to do with it. Because I have no problems eating candy now and then.

And that’s the key. Because if I want some candy, I will go eat some goddamn candy. The result? I don’t feel the overwhelming urge to rush over and start shoveling as much candy as possible into my face.

On the other hand, I remember days past of dieting when I did need to hide or get rid of Halloween candy to avoid eating it because my self-control was not that great.

It’s like when you try not to think about a white bear. What do you end up thinking about? A white bear!

This has long been my experience with dieting. As soon as thing are “bad” and off limits, all I can think about eating is those things. Yet oddly, when not off limits and I allow myself to eat those foods if I want them, I don’t think about or crave them so much.

The only real exception to that I will say is beverages. I still try to avoid drinking sugary drinks and the only way I can ever successfully avoid craving them is by making sure I drink enough water- because my main “craving” there is just dehydration, but if I let myself get actually dehydrated I find myself craving sugary drinks instead of water. But if I keep myself well hydrated with water, I don’t really crave them the same way.

Which is why my current approach to diet is centered around trying to make sure I eat foods that are nourishing (and ideally high in protein- still struggle immensely with that though), and drinking enough water to stay well hydrated. It’s about what my body needs to have, not what I think it or have been told it shouldn’t.