Why I Lift

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that I love weightlifting. I’ve done a weightlifting series, written about the benefits, and just talked about it in my story and other posts because, well, it’s my passion! I write about it, post about it, talk about it because I love it and that’s what I’ve chosen to fill my life with (as much as I can of course). Now, lately, i’ve heard through social media and YouTube of many weightlifters, athletes, bodybuilders, etc. who get “shamed” for lifting because they only care about their looks, they’re narcissists, douchey–whatever you want to call it. And while I thankfully have never experienced this, I am still a part of that group being incorrectly called out.

Now are there some people who only lift for those above reasons, probably yes, but like any “stereotype” they are few & far between–the outliers–causing the rest of us to get a bad rap. So today I want to talk about why I personally lift. I think that anyone, whether or not their passion/life is involved with fitness, should always be knowing their why. Why they started, why they’re doing it, why they want to continue, etc. Knowing your why can help you push through when times get hard (very often), it helps you live a life you love, confident in what you are doing, and it helps shape who you are as a person. If you can’t think of a why, then consider it’s time to move on. Your why is fundamental.

So, why do I lift?

I lift because I love it. I enjoy pushing myself to lift more weight, for more reps, to try difficult movements and conquer them. I love knowing that I am physically making a change in my body, mind, and life. From the moment I step foot in the gym, until I walk out (or limp if it’s leg day ya know) I just love it. The whole process of working on myself, for myself, by myself to become better and stronger is something that I look forward to carrying through my entire life.

I lift because it makes me confident. Unlike those accusations of being too focused on one’s self or body, I struggle to love my body. If you’ve read my story, you know that I hardcore struggled in the past with body dysmorphia, with accepting my body for what it currently is and loving it at all stages. I just wanted to be skinny. But, when I stop foot in that gym and start lifting, all those thoughts go away. I’m no longer consumed by how my body looks, but rather what my body can do!! It doesn’t matter if I’m skinny when I’m squatting more than my bodyweight, it doesn’t matter that I tend to hold my fat on my lower belly when I am fighting through the last reps to BUILD my muscle and body. Lifting has shown me that while I still struggle, I no longer want to be tiny and skinny. I want to be strong and healthy and muscular and a freakin’ badass in the gym.

I lift because of what it’s taught me.

Lifting is much bigger than just who it builds physically, it builds your character, your attitude on life, you as a person, how you live your life. It has taught me discipline and perseverance. Results take time, goals take time and through the process you have to be discipline to hit your lifts and nutrition. Persevere over challenges, bounce back from setbacks and come at it even harder and stronger than before. Lifting has taught me to set goals, focus hard to achieve them, and work for it. It has taught me to live a life that I love–no matter what anyone else’s opinion is. It has shown me that I can become whoever and whatever I choose to set my mind to be.

I lift because it makes me stronger.

Not only physically, but mentally too. Sure, the muscle gains are evident. But the confidence to live the life I love, to be damn proud of what I am doing, and to fight for what I want isn’t as easily seen–but it’s there alright!!! The mental toughness to push through hard times, to not quit or give-up. Lifting has even helped my mental health by reminding me to listen to my body. Sure, I’m pushing myself in the gym to get physically stronger. But if I ever want to see that progress, lifting reminds me that I need to take care of resting and my mental health as well.

I lift because it makes me happy.

This last one kind of bundles the previous paragraphs into one. All of these things that lifting does for me makes me happy. I’m not always a cheerful, positive person, but lifting helps change my perspective and brings me joy in what I am doing and who I am becoming. And honestly, your why should be bringing you happiness otherwise why are you doing it?

Lifting is helping me build myself–mentally, physically, in and outside of the gym, my character, who I am, and who I am becoming.

This is why I lift.

Upper Body Routine

A few posts back I posted my leg day routine from when I had the week off from volleyball workouts. Well, that week I also did an upper body routine (weird, huh?) so I figured why not share that with you as well. I normally don’t like training upper body (except back/bis), but honestly this workout was killer and left me with a great pump and soreness for days. Gotta #train to #gain amiright?


1. Single and Double Bar Lat Pulldowns (3 x 10)

1 rep is pulling the right down solely, left down solely, then both together (normal lat pull down), repeat 10 times for 1 set. You may have to go lighter weight to be able to so do the single ones, but trust me, you will start to feel the burn from excess movement in  a set.

2. Single Arm Bench Press (3 x 6 each) SS with Skull Crushers (3 x 8)

I like switching it up to single arm to really engage core and just confuse my muscles. I do skull crushers with a dumbbell (esp. since I just use the same weight as I benched), but you could switch to a bar too. No rest between bench press and skullcrushers–feel the tricep burn!

3. Preacher Curl (3 x 6)

My gym had a little set-up for this, but if not just make sure your are sitting and your arms are resting so that you aren’t using the movement or momentum to curl the bar.

4. Tricep Pushdown (3 x 10)

I use the hook-on that has the separated rope things. Keep elbows tight to side, push down and then come back up to about past 90 degrees.

5. Shoulder  Press (3 x 8)

I used dumbbells here and did both arms at the same time for 8 reps.

6. Bent Over Bar Rows (3 x 10) SS with Upright BArbell Row (3 x 3-4 until failure)

Hinge at the waist and keep your knees slightly bent. Focus on engaging the back muscles as you row. Then, immediately go into upright barbell rows and do as many until failure (can’t lift it up).

7. Bar Shoulder Press (2 x 8)

This time I used a 45 pound bar. I did less too because my arms were just about dying by the end of this.

 

Leg Day Routine

I love leg day. Like extra, super love. Well of course until my legs are shaking and feel like jello but hey it’s worth it. I love training legs for a few reasons: 1) I’m stronger in my lower body so I feel more powerful 2) I think leg exercises are more fun than upper body stuff, and 3) I can create lots of compound movements and supersets to get my heart rate and sweating UP so that I have an amazing workout.

When training for volleyball, i don’t get to do specific leg day focused lifts because our lifts are full-body 3 times a week with movements meant for volleyball players. But this past week, we had a rest week so I got to create my own leg day routine and kill it! It was seriously so great that I wanted to share it with you! Feel free to modify as needed.


Warmup

I did warm-up exercises with a band: side-step walk, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, and glute bridges. Also, did 2 x 4 each leg single leg bench squats to warm-up.

1. Squats (5 sets; 8, 6, 4, 2, 1)

I always start with squats when I can because it is such a big movement that I don’t want my legs to be tired from other stuff before doing this otherwise I won’t be able to do my best or get the most out of it. The sets and number of reps can be however much you want, I just decided to work up to do a 1 rep “max” as close to my actual max as possible (since I didn’t have any spot). I did a set of 8 at 105, 6 at 125, 4 at 135, 2 at 155, and 1 at 165 (max = 170).

2. Dumbbell RDL (4 x 10) SS with curtsy lunges (4 x 8 each)

Next up was dumbbell Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) supersetted (SS) with curtsy lunges on each leg. I used 25 pound dumbbells for the RDLs and then after finishing my 10, go straight into curtsy lunges (without dumbbells) on each leg. Then rest and repeat for 3 more sets. Not gonna lie, my legs almost gave out here, but the booty burn and work is GOOD!

3. Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats (3 x 6 each) SS with Banded Hip-Thrusts (3 x 8)

I used a 50 pound barbell for both. Using a box (I prefer using a bench, but all the ones at the gym were taken so I had to make-do), step one foot and back and do 6 split squats on one leg, then switch to the other. Next, go straight into banded hip-thrusts (can do w/o band too) laying on the box and really squeezing at the top. Repeat for 2 more sets and I promise you, your legs and butt will feel it!


I didn’t do a bunch of exercises; however, I really focused on targeting certain muscles, squeezing and really working it when I was doing each exercise. That’s also why I superset a lot of exercises because it allows for minimal rest, which means higher heart rate and a better workout for me. And that night and the next day, my hamstrings and booty were so sore so I promise you, keeping it simple with just a few exercises can really work.

What I Learned from a Rest Day

Rest days–the ultimate love-hate relationship. I always knew rest days were important to give your muscles and your body a break from the physical strain put on them by training or playing a sport. Actually in high school, I would look forward to them because it meant having time off, it meant taking a break. During my eating disorder this was not the case at all. I hated breaks and rest days because it meant I wasn’t being as active which meant that my body wasn’t burning as many calories. I saw rest days as a time to lower my calories even more because I had to eat less since I was doing less. I would try every way I could to get exercise in or not take too many rest days even when I was tired. I still took them because there were days I felt so tired and unmotivated that I couldn’t work out (probably because I didn’t take properly timed rest days and I wasn’t appropriately fueling my body).  I would find ways to eat less food, even if I felt hungry, or feel ashamed for eating something I wanted that wasn’t the healthiest because it was my rest day. I had the wrong mindset that exercise was only to burn off what I ate, especially if it was a “treat”. Even during recovery I struggled with this, heck even last week I struggled with this. However, that all changed yesterday and I have my body to thank for that.

Two days ago we had our spring tournament for collegiate volleyball–this is just our one day in the spring that we are allowed to play other schools and so we just scrimmage different teams. It was a long day and tiring, but nothing I couldn’t seem to handle. Then, when I woke up yesterday it hit me. First off, it was 7 am when I woke up and I laid in bed trying to go back to sleep to no avail. But when I tried to get up to start my day I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was physically paralyzed or hurt (although I was a little sore and in pain), but it was this notion that had washed over me where I could not muster up enough energy, effort, or motivation to get up. I literally thought to myself I could lay here all day and not even care about getting up to eat or anything. And this is big because I love to eat, but at the moment my mind and body didn’t even care about eating the rest of the day. My stomach wasn’t growling either so I didn’t even have that to get me up to feed me. It was one of the worst feelings–I laid in bed almost 2 hours like this.

When I did finally manage to get up, I knew that it would be a much-needed rest day…but a different kind. Sunday was going to truly be a do-nothing-but-the-basics (laundry and grocery shopping) kind of day where I would literally rest and lay around and not feel guilty. My body needed it–I was so exhausted and tired that I knew my body was trying to tell me something and luckily, I received the message. From it, I learned some important things that I think everyone should hear not only about rest days, but about their health as well.

So…I learned to:

1. Listen to My Body

Seriously, it knows best! Now, there is a difference between feeling unmotivated and skipping several workouts and truly realizing that your body is dead tired from everything you’ve put it through and it needs a break! I learned that when my body is truly needing it, I will give myself a full and complete rest day to help my body and my health!

2. Listen to Cravings

A second part of listening to my body was food that it was craving. For some reason, the minute I got up I craved Panda Express’s orange chicken and chow mein–something I haven’t had in forever because I deemed it “unhealthy”. And while yes there are much healthier choices at Panda and I always choose those, there is nothing wrong with enjoying foods you crave every now and then. So for dinner, I got myself exactly that!! This was a big step for me too considering I had gone to Cici’s the night before and was treating myself to my favorite food truck later  in the week. For me, I usually only allow myself a treat meal out 1-2 times a week because that is what works best for me. But to fully respect my body and fight in recovery, I knew that I needed to listen to my cravings and realize that it is okay to have a few enjoyable, unhealthier meals out–it wasn’t going to harm my progress and would actually probably help it in the end.

3. Enjoy the Moments

My mom had told me to relax in bed, eat breakfast and then go out for a walk because the weather was so nice. Wow, do moms really know best. The weather was absolutely beautiful–sunny, clear, blue skies–and reminded my of Fall which made me super happy. (Now, I didn’t take the walk for exercise, I took it because I knew the air and the sunshine would be good for my relaxation and health!) During the walk, I realized just how enjoyable little moments are, such as the beautiful weather, the sunshine, nature, a relaxing walk, my health. In life, we often look for the big things, but those only make up a small portion of our moments; instead it’s the little things that really make life enjoyable. That short 10-minute walk made me enjoy so many things such as good food, my health, and even my rest day! I also found joy and pleasure in a short walk, something I wouldn’t normally do, but it really helped slow me down and turn my day around!

4. Not Let Tracking Control Me

Lately, I had gotten so caught up in my FitBit and its data. I would get mad that I didn’t hit my step goal because I couldn’t wear it to practice and so it missed all those steps–and same goes for the calories side. Especially on rest days, I would get upset by the lower calorie burn number. I would constantly be checking my watch and thinking in my head how I could get more steps or get more calories burn to show especially–I was obsessed in an unhealthy way. I let my life and my thoughts be dictated by a fitness tracker! I’m not saying they cannot be helpful nor that it’s not good to hit your steps goal, but just like the scale doesn’t define you, neither should these fitness trackers! Although I feel naked without it (yes, I did still check my wrist multiple times), I made the decision to go without it on my rest day. And I kinda enjoyed it. I felt free from the stress of tracking and I knew that I was still just as healthy as when I had it on, maybe even more so now mentally.

5. Actually Rest

Lastly, I learned that it is okay to actually rest on your rest days (novel concept, I know). It’s okay to have complete day of nothingness. In general, you want to live an active lifestyle, but there will be days when you just lay around and binge watch Criminal Minds all day (#noshame) and THAT’s OKAY!!

Despite the awful feeling of exhaustion I felt, I am grateful for it because I learned so many valuable things from a single day. If I’m gonna grow, I have to let my body recover so that it can continue to provide a healthy life for me.  It was uncomfortable at first, but I believe that I have made strides in my recovery and am on my way to living a happier, healthier life because growth happens outside your comfort zone!