Challenge Smashed!

Okay, here it is, all that juicy before and after info from the Six-Week Challenge! This post is a mash-up of what I put together for the end of my challenge thread on the NF forums. I know a couple of you four readers are into numbers, so you should get a kick out of this. Everybody else can skip to the end if mathy things make their brains ache. For the record, I would normally be skipping to the end here.

First off, the goal tally!

New Jeans—Not only do they fit, they are LOOSE! I’ll have to grab the next size soon!
Blog Posts—All done! Most of them were even towards the beginning of the week where I prefer them.
Strength Training—All workouts completed. I’ll include lift progress below.
Bike Rides—Mileage worked out to 66.26 as of this Wednesday (goal was 60).
Deadlift Progress—Goal completed in Week 2, hehehe. DLs continued throughout the challenge.

 
Good stuff! Now for the lift progress from the beginning of the challenge to today. They’re not big numbers. I had no muscles to speak of when we started with the weights and the lifting and the running our butts off. But they’re a start, and they’re progress.
 
Squats—Start, BW, 3 sets of 9 reps. Current, 85 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Bench Press—Start, 45 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 60 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Inv Row/Low Lat Pull—Start, 15 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 35 lb, 4 sets of 8 reps.
Deadlifts—Start, 65 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 95 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Overhead Press—Start, 20 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current 35 lb, 4 sets of 7 reps.
Lat Pull-Down—Start, 50 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 90 lb, 4 sets of 6 reps.
Back Extensions—Start, BW, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 10 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
Calf Raises—Start, BW, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 40 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
Shoulder Shrugs—Start, 20 lb, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 40 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
We do squats, benches, and rows on one day, then deadlifts, overhead presses, and lat pull-downs the next, alternating the two over a three-day lift week. Back extensions, calf raises, and shoulder shrugs go in at the end of every session, followed by cardio. As a result, I almost have delts now. Bonus!
Speaking of cardio, today I ran five intervals in a 15-minute program, which was AFTER I had spent 20 minutes crushing the elliptical. Suck it, you evil death machines!
And now for the measurements, to be followed by the even more terrifying photos. Yes, photos! *echoing doom voice*
Weight—Starting, 167.6. Current, 164.2.
Neck—Starting, 14 in. Current, 13.75 in.
Waist—Starting, 36.75 in. Current, 34.75 in.
Hips—Starting, 44.5 in. Current, 43.75 in.
Forearm—Starting, 9.25 in. Current, 9.25 in.
Bicep—Starting, 12 in. Current, 11.75 in.
Thigh—Starting, 24.5 in. Current, 24 in.
Calf—Starting, 15 in. Current, 14.5 in.
Definitely got some improvement here, but I can see they’re telling the truth about fat not leaving the areas you want in the order you want. Stupid hip fat. If I could beat it with a rake, I would.
And now for the pics. I can’t tell you how freaked out I am to do this, but I feel it’s part of the challenge, so RAWR. (Favorite hat included in today’s photos to simulate bravery and to cover up my hair, which was AFU.)
Front!

 

Side!
Guns!

 

Legs!
Helper Cats!
Clearly I have a long way to go, but feeling a sense of increased velocity towards that final goal is priceless. Balance, happiness, badass. I should probably add patience in there somewhere, though, because I’m seriously lacking when it comes to wanting my chunky belleh to disappear.
Many thanks to Brian for taking the pictures and putting them together for me to post. He was with me every step of the way on this challenge, and it would have sucked without him. So much love!
So, there we have it. Over the past six weeks I’ve not lost a ton of weight, but I am on schedule. I’ve also gained a whole lotta muscle and still managed to go from XL to L in most of my clothes (and even M in some of them). What does this mean? Moar shopping, of course. I’ll take it!
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Challenge Completion

It’s cool and rainy here in town this morning. Seems like a good time for drinking coffee and working on the computers. We’re near the end of our challenge after a particularly long week, getting ready to quantify all of the hard work we’ve done over the past couple of months, and I feel pretty good about our results. Just one more workout at the gym tomorrow morning, and then we’ll put together the before/after measurements and shots for the six weeks. Since I’ve been talking about the process on this blog, I’ll post the information here along with any less horrifying pictures I can live with being public. My four readers deserve no less!

Today isn’t about the numbers, though. Progress can be so much more, and in our case it really has been. We went into this wanting to build some good habits, knowing that it takes about six weeks for most people to do so. We’re now able to add the gym, bike rides, and healthful home-cooked dinners to the food-logging habit we formed previously. And while the new habits do have a favorable effect on our numbers, they have a bigger effect on our lives. I really do believe we live better since we started getting serious about our health back in March and especially since we took on this challenge.

For example, the planning required to fit in gym/rides/dinners has improved my time management to the point that I get a lot more done in a day and end up feeling happier because I was productive. I’ve worked certain chores into the schedule so the house stays cleaner as well. Bonus! And we’re saving quite a bit of money by buying fresh meats and vegetables instead of sodium-laced Bags o’Crap at the grocery store. (Note: I still wish we had a big farmer’s market around here. Somebody get on that!) Going out to eat once a month rather than once a week has also helped.

She’s choppin’ broccoli!

 

This challenge has been a great focus for us and I’m glad I stumbled upon the opportunity to accept it. I’m also glad Brian jumped into it with me, because his support has made it infinitely better (and more fun) than it would have been on my own. He’s the best. We’re going to keep tackling these challenges for a while to build more new good habits and kill old bad ones. New goals are bubbling through our brains even now. In my case, they’re crazy things like hand-stand pushups and burpee pullups, but coming up with them is pretty fun.

Would you like to get in on these? Let me know and I’ll help you set up. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you decide you really want to. I sure was.

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Motivation, Will, and a Little NSV

I’m coming up on one of my milestone goals.
I arbitrarily set them every 25lbs, so I’d have 10 “Milestones” on my total journey from 475 to 225. I’m getting close to 350, which is the halfway point. I guess that makes this a MILESTONE GOAL instead of a milestone goal.
I’d been told, have read, and heard many times that this is where things will start to get hard.  That’s accurate.  It IS starting to get hard. The aches and pains are becoming a little more pronounced at times. That nagging feeling in my lumbar nags a little louder than before. Some gym days are exercises in pure willpower to get dressed after work and go to the gym when I really don’t want to.
It’s not because I’m tired. I’m not.

It’s not because I’m hurting. I’ve dealt with pain for much of my life, I’m used to it and don’t let it dictate what I can and can’t do.
It’s worse.
It’s because… it’s working. I know that doesn’t make sense.. let me try to explain.
When I started work at my current job two and a half years ago, I bought some new clothes. I had worked in an industrial office environment and now was working in a more formal office environment. I bought slacks, shoes, shirts.. you name it.  The shirts were 4XLT (4x Extra Large, Tall) shirts. I’m NOT tall but I needed the extra length so the shirt was long enough to tuck into my pants after making the Magellanic circumnavigation around my enormous gut.
They’re great shirts- they were priced well, look good, and have held up to daily use for 30+ months.
… but they don’t fit anymore. I’ve lost almost 125 pounds since I bought them, and they fit me like a 55 gallon Hefty garbage bag fits a kitchen trash can. So at H4rpy’s prodding, I bought a pair of new shirts.  I had been waiting, because I wanted to get two sizes down- I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on 3x shirts that hopefully won’t fit for more than a few months.
But 2X? The last time I wore 2X shirts, I was in pretty good shape from a muscular standpoint, I was 26 years old instead of 36, and I weighed 260 instead of 360. “There’s no way,” I thought.
 H4rpy insisted I should get them, because if they don’t fit perfectly now, they will soon, and I’ll get years of use out of them. She was quite right, so I ordered two shirts to test.
They fit.
I don’t mean I could squeeze into them and they’re strained. I mean they fit. They fit properly.
I weigh 360 pounds and have a gut the size of the Death Star, but I’ve managed to burn off enough fat and add enough muscle to my body that I fit into a 2XL (note: NOT a 2XL Tall- just plain old 2XL) shirt and have it look right.

Do you know what this means? 

I can go clothes shopping in normal stores again.

 This is a huge victory. This is one of those life moments where it all starts to pay off, and you see the results becoming real for the first time.
It’s the perfect time for the voice of Self Sabotage to speak up from the shadows of my psyche, needling me just when I’m feeling good, when I’m at my most vulnerable, when I think I really CAN do this, reminding me that I really SHOUDLN’T feel good.

“You’ve made it, big guy… so take it easy! Slow down, you’ve beaten me.. I yield! You don’t need to keep doing this to yourself! Take a day off, rest a bit.. hell, have a treat! You know you’ve earned it, right?”

 My response is thus:

&@#% the voice in my head, and !#@% 2XL shirts.

I’m done when I say I’m done, not when my insecurities tell me “It’s Good Enough.”
The voice in my head can piss off, because I’ve got lifting to do and miles to ride before this is over, and I’m the one who decides when the train stops.
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Posting: Challenge Update

I’m a bit late this week in posting to keep up with my six-week challenge goals. Part of that is because I’ve been busy, especially on Friday, and part of it is because I’ve had a really hard time focusing lately. Harder than usual, that is. Flighty brain is flightier. What’s got me so distracted? I suspect it’s the weather. We had a bunch of dreary, awesomely rainy cold days this week and those invariably make me want to hibernate. Some days it was all I could do to stare at my monitor and go “buuuuhhh” until dinner time. On the plus side, it’s cool enough for me to wear my favorite hat, which I’ve been doing. All week long. Even to the gym.

Best hat evar!


At any rate, I figure it’s a good time to update everyone on the challenge progress. So far, all goals have been met.

Strength Training—On track. Three sessions per week, and we have not missed one. We’ve added weight, reps, and even a couple of new exercises, so that program is moving right along.

Deadlifts—Done! I was able to transition to full deadlifts in the second week of the challenge. Deadlifts are awesome and full of RAWR. I’ve been varying the weight since my back freaked out during run intervals last week, but it is moving back up.

Bike Rides—Done! Just passed the 60-mile mark this week, though that last 5 miles was on the stationary bike due to crappy riding conditions. We’ll keep riding as long as the weather allows and then switch to the stationary for the winter.

Blog Posts—On track. One post per week, usually somewhat on a schedule. Sort of. Good thing schedule wasn’t part of the challenge, hurr.

We are now finishing Week 5. This challenge hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been quite as hard as I thought it’d be either. My motivation for going to the gym hasn’t wavered because getting stronger feels so good. The endurance stuff is where I get flaily. It has been a lot more painful for me than the strength program: literally, thanks to that stupid old back injury. No more running for me, so we’ll have to find other ways to work on endurance, along with the bike rides.

As difficult as they were in the beginning, though, I’ve come to love those rides. My balance is better, my breathing has improved, and holy flagnog are my legs stronger. A certain peace falls over me when we’re riding, especially once we get out of town a ways and are just surrounded by tall grass, sunlight, and wind. Brian says I’ll be pretty fast when I get a lighter bike, and I really look forward to finding out. In the meantime, I’ll keep charging up those big-ass hills in ever higher gears while roaring, “YES, I HAVE QUADS OF STEEL!”

RAWR!

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Hair

Last Thursday I shocked my friends, my family, and myself by taking a flying leap out of my comfort zone. I finally acted on a big decision I’d been considering for a couple of years. You’re thinking I went out and bought something huge, aren’t you? Or took a new job, or decided to move to Europe? Nope. I made a big life change for sure, but it’s not at all what you’re thinking… I just walked into a salon and asked a nice lady to cut my hair short. SHORT. The sentient mass on top of my head went from Medusa Meets Biker Mama of the 80s to a floofy, swishy bob cut.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh, well pffft. Women get their hair cut all the time, big whoop.” Yes, women do. I DO NOT. My hair has not been this short since 1985. It was so long for so long that it had become part of my identity. People describing me to others used the phrases Girl with The Big Hair and Chick with The 80s Hair more often than not. These descriptions had begun to mildly horrify me over the past few years, but not enough to change anything. I was comfortable with the sentient mass, even on days I hated it for not behaving worth a crap. The thought of taming it was actually kind of scary.

I’d been getting really sick of it, though, especially lately. More than once I threatened to just shave my head a la Vygr from Star Trek. Then, last week I finally decided I had dropped enough weight to avoid looking like a balloon animal with short hair, so I went for it before I could chicken out and stick with the comfy, annoying status quo. Walking into that salon was almost as nerve wracking as going to the dentist for me. What if the sentient mass had been amplifying my brain power all these years? I’d walk out dumber! Oh no!

Same dork, new hair!

Anxiety be damned, I went for it anyway. I sat bug-eyed and trembling in that chair watching my appearance actually change for the first time since high school, fearing the stylist would think I’m old enough for the Brown Football Helmet and wondering what would come of this chop. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the result. It was way more girly than I’ve ever been, but the longer I inspected it, the more I liked the look. It felt amazing. It still does. As weird as this sounds, getting my hair cut like that was a bit of a breakthrough for me, another fear conquered.

Brian remarked the other day how much he likes this do and said it’s like I’m a whole new woman. I’m happy with who I am now, so cutting my hair was like cutting the chain to past baggage that I’m no longer willing to drag around. Who knew a simple haircut could be so liberating? It’s also had some other advantages!
• The 4,011 ponytail holders in our house are now free cat toys (moar wigouts).
• Bed Head is even more entertaining with short hair (it being naturally curly helps).
• I could be cross-dressing Einstein for Halloween (or Beethoven. Win.).
• Showers are quicker (yay, water conservation).

Apparently, change really is good. And if the soundtrack from Hair isn’t running through your brain right now, well, I just don’t even know you.

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Useful Nostalgia

One of our friends posted a picture of Wonder Woman on Faceblech the other day. Shortly thereafter I ran across a picture of Erin Gray and Nichelle Nichols (together! squeeee!), and my Giant Nostalgia Bomb of a reaction got me to thinking about the women I admired as a kid. Here’s the short list.
—My Mom
—Wonder Woman
—Colonel Wilma Deering (in Buck Rogers)

There is a distinct pattern here. They’re all strong women. I’ve posted before about strength being a priority to me, but never realized that it always has been, and it began with my mom. 

Mom has a quiet authority and absolute confidence in her knowledge of what she’s doing (until you tick her off, then it’s not so quiet). Even before she went to school and started rocking surgery centers across the country, she had that air. Now, surgeons sit down when she tells them to. As my friend Amy said when she met her, “Your mom exudes awesomeness.” Yes, she does. My mom values learning and taught us to be open minded, empathetic, and responsible for our actions. I’m immensely proud of her and always have been. She’s a big reason I grew up to be who I am.

And now to the television heroes. To be honest, my memories of these shows are fairly sketchy. As far as my brain is concerned they were on 892 years ago. Heaven knows what I’d think if I were to watch them now, other than, “HAHA, SUCH CHEESE, HOLY FLAGNOG!” However, I do remember thinking Wonder Woman was boss, and I cannot imagine anyone but Linda Carter in that role, ever. The same goes for Colonel Deering, though I remember her a little better. Erin Gray has always been one of my favorite actresses. 

Colonel Deering

At any rate, what struck me about both of these characters is how different they were from other women I’d seen before on television. Wonder Woman and Wilma Deering seemed more real to me because they were often on both sides of the save me/save you equation, not always tied to the railroad tracks. They made decisions with consequences and ran their own lives. As an anxiety-ridden little bookworm, strength was something I didn’t normally feel, so watching them command a situation and toss dudes around like potato sacks was inspiring. They showed us that women don’t have to be weak.

That message is very important to me as I see a culture actively trying to discourage strength in half its population. “Oh, you don’t want to lift like that, having muscles will make you look mannish,” or “Oh, just get your husband to do that for you, people will think you’re freakish if you do it yourself.” That is bullroar. Strength is beautiful. These characters were strong, smart, and in control. My mom still is, and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

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