I am a runner. And I am a Lifter. I am a mother of 5, forty, fit and finally starting to love this body that lugs me through my busy day. This has been a long journey about self-discovery. Learning my limits, learning my goals, learning how to fall and get back up again. Learning how to do it all wrong then finally working out how to do it right. I’ve learnt the difference between dieting to lose weight and eating to lose fat. I’ve learnt the difference between weighted cardio and lifting heavy. I also learnt that cardio is good for you but if fit is the look you are after, you need to train smarter, heavier, not longer. I have learnt so much on this journey and yet I am only just beginning. Eating more, throwing out the scales and lifting to failure is working for me.
After having my fifth baby in October 2009 I gained weight. I was busy with 5 children, working with my husband in our farming business and making excuses for not having time to exercise. In February 2010 I was 74kg (163lb), my biggest weight ever. (79kg or 174lb was my biggest full term pregnancy weight) I decided there was no way I was going to buy the next size up in clothes, it was time to stop making excuses. My goal was never to be skinny, all I wanted was to be fit and healthy. I have never been one to obsess over scales, rather I used my favorite jeans to measure my weight. I exercised a little and cut back on some treats, walked everywhere and after doing cardio only exercise for 4mths I was disappointed with my slow progress. I was now 69kg and still feeling fat and ugly.
I joined the local gym and had a weights program written up by a trainer and got some great advice on interval training. This is when the cardio bunny in me was born. I loved tabata and was doing it every day along with weights – 15reps, 3 sets – 3 times a week. I powered through my workouts, dripping with sweat thinking I was doing all the right things. 12mths after my journey started I was still only 67kg (147lb). My fitness had improved but I was still not getting the results I wanted. I still didn't look fit and had little tone. I started running. Lost a bit more. But I was still not seeing a fit healthy woman in the mirror.
I decided at this point that my diet may not have been as good as I thought so I started counting calories and bought a set of scales. I joined MyFitnessPal – an online diet and exercise diary – and set my calories at 1200 per day. I am 173cm (5ft8) tall and at this time weighed 65kg (143lb). The weight started dropping off. I lost a lot and by the end of 2011 I was down to 59kg (130lb)!! I was exhausted. Tired. Hungry. Cranky. I dragged myself through the day and armed with a HRM I dragged myself through workouts burning a minimum of 1000 cals 6 days a week. I did not look fit. I did not feel healthy. What was I doing wrong??? Then I found out that MFP had a community and I ‘met’ Kiki. I read her ramblings every day. I researched her ramblings every day. I read NROLFW. I researched. Could this crazy woman be right? Could I look and feel better if I ate more??? I was lifting – 3 times a week!
What I was doing was not working so I decided to give this eating thing a go. I decided to trust the process. In January 2012 I purchased a periodized workout plan that Kiki recommended and had decided to increase my cals to 2000 a day. My first ever bulk. I had become dependent on the scales – weighing in on a weekly basis and was not ready to give that up. As soon as I started the workouts I realized that I had not been lifting heavy. In fact all I had been doing was weighted cardio. I lasted 2 months and the ever rising scales did my head in (I had gained a whole kilo or 2lb). All the food did my head in. How could eating all this food help me look better? Not enough running did my head in. I needed to run to remain sane. But I had also tasted heavy weights and I loved it.
So in May 2012 I started running again and dropped my cals back to 1200. I immediately became lethargic. This lasted about 2 weeks before I put them up to 1500. Still little energy. I kept it up for another 2 weeks. I went up to 1800 cals. At this point I was able to think clearer. I did more research, looked back through my diaries and realized this Kiki lady knew what she was on about!! At that moment I did an overhaul of my diet. I worked on my macros (who would have thought there was more to food then broccoli and chocolate), tweaking and adjusting, working out what made me feel good. I no longer focused on calories but on the macronutrients in my food. I made sure I got enough of what my body needed and let the calories fall into place – they usually hit around 1800-2000cals. I cut the running back to 3 days a week and lifting days were for lifting only. I trained less, ate more and finally little muscles started to poke through!!! Finally I started to feel great. Finally I started to see results!! At this point I was 63kg. (138lb) and now only weighing monthly.
I needed a goal, something to keep me motivated. I decided to do a triathlon – the grueling ’hell of the west’ – 2km swim in a murky river, 80km ride along the highway, and a hot dry 20km run in the Australian outback. Two weeks into training the change in my physique was already showing. I was literally watching the muscle melt away. It was shear relief when my Dr. said he wanted to laser my varicose veins sooner rather than later. I decided that the interruption to training was too long and I would only do the 20km run. I also decided that the only way to maintain as much muscle as possible was to eat and lift to failure. I did not want to go back to skinny. December 2012 I started eating at around 3000 cals a day. I also threw out the scales. Best thing I ever did. Come race day I was a little heavier than a lot of athletes, perhaps this made me a little slower but I was happy to be full of energy and felt and looked fit. (my time was 1hr 40min)
The very next day I went into cut mode. I was cutting at what I had in the past thought was over eating!! I ate 1800cals a day, lifted heavy 3 days a week, did 2 interval cardio sessions and 1 weighted full body cross fit workout. I don’t know if you can call what I do bulking and cutting as my workout schedules don’t really fit the typical bulk/cut model. But it works for me. I’m not trying to compete so my diet and exercise has to be tailored into my life. I stopped cutting mid April when I decided to start training for a Tough Mudder – a 20km mud run. I am now 1 week out from the race. I’ve been eating around 3500cals a day and I feel great. Eating gives me the energy to keep up with all the rigorous training and still live my life. At the moment I do 2-3 cross fit style workouts a week. I run 3-4 days a week and I lift 3 days. I am bruised and battered, my body hurts most days but it’s a pain I love – the feeling you get when your body is repairing and growing.
I weighed myself before writing this and I have gained 7kg in the last 8mths. I went into full meltdown mode when I saw that number. I couldn’t believe how far I had let myself go. At this point I took some pictures and compared the difference to last time I was the same weight. Wow. If that doesn’t convince you to throw out the scale I don’t know what will??!! I know it’s not all muscle but again if I’m a little slower because I’m a little fluffier, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
I will start to cut again when this race is over and I’m excited to see what lies beneath! I am lifting 3-4 times heavier then when I did the same reps in my first round of periodization. I have learnt to listen to my body. If I need a rest day, I take it. If I need a refuel day, I eat. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I am the same weight I was 2 years ago and look and feel completely different. I will keep running as it keeps me sane. I love to wake up and go for a run. Or not. Maybe sprint intervals. Maybe I’ll try for a PB. I love not planning my runs, I just put on my shoes and let my body do the thinking. I will also keep on lifting. I love the feeling of power. I love seeing the weights go up. I love the structure of a weighted workout. I love the comments. I know that running will make building muscle slower but I am finally at peace with that. I no longer care how many calories I burn in a workout, I work out because I love it. I no longer need the scales – numbers do not define me. I eat to fuel my workout or my current goal. I am not the fastest or the strongest but I am fit and I am healthy.
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