3 Top Tips for Bulking

Now that volleyball season has ended, it’s time for me to do a true reverse diet/bulk. One where I am accurately tracking what I eat, weighing myself (and keeping track of progress), pushing myself in the gym…and then adjusting the numbers from there. I understand that in a society that praises leanness and always “dieting down”, or even in the fitness-industry when you see lots of people shredded from cutting, it can be difficult to embrace the bulk. Maybe not so hard to embrace the extra eating or feeling stronger in the gym, but hard to embrace the weight gain, the inevitable fat gain, the feeling of being, well, not so lean all the time. Don’t get me wrong there is definitely a way to do a lean bulk, but no matter what bulking involved putting on mass/weight. And that’s okay! If you want progress, if you want strength, and results, then bulking is a necessary–you can’t always be in a deficit and expect results that only come from a surplus.

That being said, there are times when it gets difficult. Surprisingly enough, it’s not always fun to be eating 2700+ calories, or easy to not compare your body to those around you, or to be in a mentally tough spot to continue bulking. I mean, hey, if it was easy everybody would do it.  But during this time there is room for tremendous growth–and I’m not just talking physical. With all of this, I thought I would share with you my top 3 tips for bulking. I don’t have all the answers, I’m still learning as I go (and grow), but these are at least things that I have found that help me through this process/journey.

1. still eat healthy

Probably  not the first thing you wanted to see, huh? But I’m bulking, so I can eat junk and fast-food every meal and still be okay, right? And while yes the purpose of a surplus is just to be eating more than you are burning, regardless of how the calories are achieved…BUT (and this is a big but lol) your body will thank you so much more for eating healthy a majority of the time. Still getting your micros in, still have most of your meals be consisted of lean meats, complex carbs, and healthy sources of fat. Why? Well 1) this will help you “lean bulk”, 2) you will have more well-rounded food groups, especially if you count macros, and 3) Your body will feel much better energy and health wise as well as just an overall feeling and functioning better. However, do make sure that you still enjoy the healthy foods you choose, don’t force yourself to eat something you hate just because #health.

2. find balance

Now, while yes the majority should come from healthy foods, there is still room for fun, enjoyable foods. The key is to find your balance and find what works for you. Some people do better on almost entirely healthier, less-processed foods, while some can incorporate more fun foods–find what works for you, your body, your life, your goals, etc. But no matter what, make sure that you do not restrict yourself entirely to health foods, especially during a bulk. You have extra calories, extra macros (usually carbs and fats) so take advantage of this time and enjoy the food you are eating! Be spontaneous and say yes to going out to eat or getting some dessert–you have the room to do so.  Trust me, if you completely restrict yourself of foods you want and enjoy, you’re going to be miserable during your bulk. My top tip here is to find the foods you enjoy and stick to those while bulking–a well-balanced mix of foods.

3. Push yourself in the gym

Lastly, while it can be hard to eat a lot of food or see your body changing, use this time to create new thoughts/feelings of strength and power in the gym. Put all that food to use by pushing yourself in the gym, in weight, in reps, in exercises, etc. Food is fuel here and the whole point of eating in a surplus is to have food to fuel your workouts and help your muscles recover from being under intense stress during your workouts. The feeling of building muscle, of getting stronger–both physically and mentally–is so worth it, so use that fuel to push yourself in the gym. However, make sure you take days off and time to rest/recover! Don’t push yourself hard 7 days in the gym or your body will never be able to recover properly, leading to no gains being made. Fuel, push, recover. Repeat.

So those are my top tips for bulking, if you have any others I would love to hear them below!

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.

Weightlifting Part 5: Tips for Maintaining

Once you get started lifting, you may never want to stop! However, there are times when life gets busy and chaotic and you may start to reconsider your workout plan. I get it, keeping any kind of plan, working out or not, can be difficult, especially if progress is slow (let me just say: goals take time!!). So I have put together some tips on how you can maintain that #liftinglife (it’s a thing) and continue with your healthy lifestyle!!

Tip #1: Be Patient

Patience is truly a virtue, especially when it comes to wanting to change something with exercise. I think all of us can say we are guilty of wanting that quick-fix, or that one exercise program that will get us to where we want in 2 weeks…well unfortunately that most likely will not happen. Change takes time, especially with your body whether that be gaining muscle, losing weight, changing your physique, etc. But, the good news is that fitness (especially weightlifting) isn’t just about end results, it’s about the journey you take through your transformation and growing to be better everyday. So don’t panic or ditch lifting if you don’t see progress that you want in a few weeks; it may take months or even more than a year to get where you want to be. But trust me, once you get there, you won’t want to stop and you’ll never look back!

Tip #2: Be Consistent

Along with being patient, consistency is key. You cannot expect results when you only stumble into the gym 4 days a month and sporadically at that. Your muscles and body needs routine, needs constant and consistent work (depending on your goals of course). It can be hard to continue and be consistent when you don’t happen to see “results”, but not being consistent won’t get you near those goals, consistency will. One way to combat this “lack of progress” is to take pictures along the way so that you can truly see yourself and the progress you’ve made. This will help you stay consistent with your lifting and workouts which will lead to better and more positive results.

Tip #3: Challenge Yourself

When you use the same weight week after week after week, especially if it’s light, it’s going to be hard to see progress. Now, I am not saying that using light weights to start with are a bad thing, or that you should throw yourself into lifting super heavy right at the start when you’re not ready. It’s important to use a safe weight until you can go up, but it’s also important that you go up in the weight you’re lifting over the weeks, that means you are getting stronger and seeing progress. The amount and the time are going to depend on the person. But, one way to maintain lifting is to challenge yourself to one more rep, or 5 pounds more than last week, or maybe even not to take any pauses/breaks during a set. Whatever it may look like for you, constantly challenging yourself in the gym will A) get results which will make you want to continue and B) allow you to have fun with your lifts because you’re always in there pushing yourself to become better.

Tip#4: Switch it Up

Another way to help you maintain lifting and not get bored by it, is to switch things up every now and then. While consistency with your routine is key, sometimes your body can get used to certain weights and movements, and you seem to have hit a plateau. If this happens, or if you’re just getting bored with your routine, don’t be afraid to change things up! Try circuit training, high rep/low weight or low rep/high weight. Try a new machine, do new exercises, or find a strength and toning class, if your gym has one. My point is that to keep things fun and interesting with your lifting and your progress, it’s okay to switch things up and find something new!

Tip #5: Have Fun

Lastly, I know I mentioned this before, but the most important thing to remember when lifting is this: make sure you are having fun and enjoying yourself. Working out and fitness shouldn’t be a “punishment” or “doing it because I have to” mentality. It should be you doing something you enjoy because you love it, the way it makes you feel and the healthy lifestyle it is helping you create. So if you start at lifting one way and it isn’t working for you, try a different way or type or style. Find the routine and the workout that you have fun and love doing! Because at the end of the day, lifting may not be for you, but living a fun and healthy lifestyle doing workouts you love while feeling good about bettering yourselfIS!

Weightlifting Part 4: How to Get Started

So now that you hopefully have learned some things about lifting, it’s time to get you started! If you remember from my story, I got started just from being an athlete. Maybe you used to be an athlete and you want to get back into lifting. Or maybe you have no experience and that’s okay too! Everyone starts somewhere different. But no matter what situation you’re coming from, here are some tips to get you started in the gym and on your way to a happier, healthier, stronger you!

1. Get the Gear

The first step to preparing to lift, is to make sure you have the correct gear and equipment! Get yourself some gym clothes whether that be shorts, leggings, tanks, spandex, sports bras, etc. that are comfy and allow you to move around and lift. Some gyms have rules as to what can and can’t be worn, so make sure you check with them before planning anything. Also, get a pair of athletic shoes (again your preference for brand and style). Another necessity: a good pair of headphones. My new favorites are the wireless kind so that you don’t have to bring your phone everywhere, but any pair will do. Music can be crucial to motivating you, keeping you going, and rocking your workout. Other things that are optional may be sweat towel, weightlifting gloves, gym bag, supplements, water or shaker bottle, etc.

2. Pick your Routine and Plan

Next up, it’s time to pick and plan your gym routine! Planning is key; you want to lay out a simple plan of what days you are lifting what and what exercises you’ll be doing. This will save you time and hassle at the gym. If you missed it, go back and read Part 3 to pick the best routine for you! There are apps you could use, or just get a journal or a Word document and plan out your lifting. Documenting it will also help you see your progress and improvement session to session, week to week.

3. Pick your exercises

Now that you know whether you’ll do full body or a 5-day split, it;s time to choose what exercises. There are many plans online that can help you (Bodybuilding has a lot of resources to help you) or you can ask friends, people at your gym or just experiment with the machines and weights at your gym! You can always mix it up and add in new exercises to switch hings up. As long as you find exercises that you enjoy and that work for you and are helping you get stronger and build muscle, that’s all that matters!

4. Have Confidence

It can be a little scary walking into a new gym to lift, especially if you’re a girl and new to lifting. It may seem intimidating or nerve-wracking because you’re being judged. But walk in the gym with confidence, like you own it. I can guarantee you that people aren’t going to look at you and judge you for trying new exercises or lifting weights. In fact, if they do look at it you, they’re probably just impressed that a girl is in the gym lifting weights to begin with. If you are nervous, this is where a good pair of headphones comes in. Pop those ear buds in, crank up your pump-up playlist and start doing your thing! Not only will you be motivated and have confidence, but you won’t even notice those around you. Until they’re hogging the machine you want to use that is…

5. Make sure you enjoy it

The last thing thats important to keep in mind is, make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. Lifting isn’t for everyone so if you’re dreading your workouts and hating every rep you do, then find something else! Try a new kind of lifting or a new workout routine. Fitness is all about bettering yourself because you love it, not because you’re punishing yourself or “just getting through”. Give lifting a chance, but tune in to how you’re feeling, physically and mentally, to make sure that you truly love what you’re doing!