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Deadlifting My Weight

Monday, August 15, 2011

I was a weakling for my first 49 years of life. I took up weight lifting shortly after my 49th birthday, and started out with weights that were comically light. Six month later, I'd conditioned to the point where I thought I could try deadlifts. I started at 125 pounds.

Some time during that year, it occurred to me that it would be cool to be able to say I could lift my own weight, and the deadlift was the obvious measurement. While gradually lifting more, but still substantially less than my weight, I thought about standards. I decided that, for me, that meant lifting my weight for reps - 3 sets of 8 reps, being able to put the bar down under control.

I got up to lifting about 180, and I could see it coming. I weighed about 190 then, and it was only a couple of ticks away. (Cue the heroic laughter from offstage.)

I continued to get stronger, but my weight was a moving target. When I was lifting 190, I weighed 195. When I was lifting 195, I weighed 200. I finally caught up at 205, having gained about 15 pounds from where I first got the idea.

At that point, I wasn't tracking what I ate. I figured I was working hard, and if I was hungry I'd eat. Yeah, right. In hindsight, I think I got enough protein at the cost of getting too many calories.

Fast forward three more years. I've been on and off the fitness wagon, and in 2011 I climb back on. This time, I reluctantly admit that I need to track what I eat. SparkPeople makes this possible for me. I'm no longer tracking historical weight lifting in detail, because those detailed records made me too self-competitive. I'd want to never lift less than I did last week, when sometimes I needed to lift less to avoid injury. Better to lift what feels right and not to think about what I did last week.

Well, SP got me motivated to go back into the gym. I'd taken close to a year off, and knew I'd lost some strength. So the first time I did deadlifts, I felt around for the right weight. That turned out to be 185, when I weighed 195 in my gym clothes. Lifted a few times, tracked what I ate, lost a few pounds.

This evening I weighed 190 in my gym clothes. I walked into the weight room, did my warmups, and deadlifted 195, for three sets of eight reps. That's about a two week development period, as opposed to the two and a half years it took me to build up to lifting my weight the first time.

Okay, I'm still lifting less than I did at my peak strength. But it's a nice psychological boost to walk out of that gym knowing that I could pick up an iron bar that weighed a bit more than I did, and lift it off the ground.

I hear someone is donating a piano to my church, and that it needs to be moved from its current location to a truck and from the truck to the church. I bet I'll be able to hold up my end when I'm asked to help move it.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LEANJEAN6 8/16/2011 6:41AM

    Wow! What a great journey you are on! --must feel good! You have to be proud! --so happy I read your blog! ---truly inspirational-!!--Thank-you for sharing! Great blog!-Lynda

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/16/2011 5:48AM

    Congrats on reaching a long-held personal goal! Amazing what we can do when we free ourselves of expectations. emoticon emoticon

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BARBAELLEN 8/15/2011 10:56PM

    So, the real trick to reaching the goal of deadlifting your own weight is to lose enough weight?

Seriously, this has to make you feel GREAT!

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MOBYCARP 8/15/2011 10:21PM

    Sets of 8 are a conservative, injury avoidance precaution. I'm less likely to injure myself lifting something I can do for 8 reps than going for something that maxes me out in 5 reps. For similar reasons, I don't use straps on deadlifts; I figure if I can't lift it because of my grip, I shouldn't try. I'm not the demographic that t-nation targets.

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CHAOSTHEORY635 8/15/2011 10:03PM

    CONGRATS!!! Lifting more than you weigh is pretty much the most awesome and motivating feeling ever.

i apologise if this is an intrusion, but: why 3 sets of 185x8 and not 3 sets of 5 with something a little heavier, or something like 5x185, 5x195, 3x205? (re: high reps and deadlifts, see:

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Lying to Myself

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I lie to myself. That shouldn't be terribly surprising, as most people lie to themselves.

Part of learning to manage my weight has been to identify lies I tell myself and to first, stop believing them; then, stop telling them. There are a lot of lies like this.

"I don't need to keep track of what I eat." Yes, I do. Been the route of not tracking, and it leads to fat.

"I'll work it off." No way, for most of the stuff I say this about. Once I start looking, I see that it's pretty easy to add a gratuitous thousand calories to my diet. Enough exercise to burn a thousand calories takes an awful lot of time.

"Yeah, I'm over the BMI limit; but it's okay because I have a lot of muscle mass." The mirror aids and abets this lie. But the camera tells me the truth. There's a bunch of fat there.

"I'll burn more calories because I have more muscle mass. So I can eat more." On a weight lifting forum, the resident guru did some calculations to confirm some numbers commonly tossed around. She concluded that the muscle gains for a typical serious amateur weight lifter would amount to burning an additional 50 calories per day while resting. I don't have to tell folks on SP how little food 50 calories is.

Incidentally, the same guru argues that the reason stronger people burn more calories isn't because muscles burn more than fat while at rest, but because they actually *do more work* with those stronger muscles, but don't notice the effort because of how strong they are. The physics argument is that lifting 50 pounds by 2 feet is the same amount of work whether it's done by someone who has to strain and sweat to accomplish it, or by someone who does it without noticing. (Note that this only addresses calories burned, not cardiovascular conditioning.)

The preceding examples are all lies I've told myself in the past, but which I no longer believe or tell myself. Today I noticed that I told myself a series of lies and it worked out well.

"Today's Sunday. It's a day of rest. I should just rest." That was a doozy. But I only had 2500 steps in at 1 PM, and I've got a streak of 10K step days to maintain.

"It's raining. I don't want to walk in the rain." But I have a little-used golf umbrella, and it wasn't raining very hard.

"I have to leave the e-book at home, because I need one hand for the umbrella and the other for my water bottle." I was actually about a tenth of a mile into the walk before I realized I intended to be out less than half an hour, and I could have left the water bottle. Oh, well. Not going back at that point.

"I'm still sore from the Romainian Deadlifts last Thursday, so I don't want to walk for exercise. Maybe I'll just take the short walk around the block." Got to the first corner to turn and go the short way. Kept walking.

"I won't work very hard. Probably won't work up a sweat and then I won't need to shower or change clothes." Got to the normal corner, and turned at the usual place. Got to the next two places to turn for a shorter walk, and kept going. By this time, my pace had picked up to close to my normal walking pace. It was feeling pretty good.

"My normal walk around the neighborhood is only good for about 4000 steps. That puts me at 6500, and I don't think I'll make up the other 3500 at home." I'm not sure that one was a lie. Anyway, when I got to the next place to turn on the 2 mile walk, I turned the wrong way, deliberately. I added a chunk to the walk, not knowing how long it would be.

By now, I'm really enjoying the walk. The rain has become harder, but nothing the umbrella can't handle. There is no traffic in the residential area, and the weather is keeping the barking dogs inside. It's really quite pleasant. But I had one last lie to tell myself.

"If I'm lucky, I'll be to 7500 or 8000 steps. Then maybe I'll have a chance of making it to 10K around the house - after I take a nap." Got home, and the pedometer had 8800 steps. The total route turned out to be 3.2 miles, and I average a 15 minute mile. (How did that happen? I was moving pretty slow at first.) I also felt more like puttering around and doing stuff than like taking a nap. I felt even better after cooling down, showering, and changing to some clean clothes.

It's still a small house, and there isn't that far to walk while puttering around. As I write this, the pedometer reads a bit over 9900 steps. I'll get my 10K in today, but probably won't get 11K. But that's okay; after all, Sunday is a day of rest.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEBRA0818 8/15/2011 8:31AM

    Thinking about all the lies I tell myself makes me want to lie down -- I applaud your ability to resist!

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/15/2011 7:36AM

    Me, neither, but the "day of rest" thing took me there, being quirky that way! emoticon

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MOBYCARP 8/14/2011 8:20PM

    I'm not Hassidic, so no eruv is needed. emoticon

(Note the lack of a traditional black hat in the profile picture.)

Comment edited on: 8/14/2011 8:22:03 PM

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WATERMELLEN 8/14/2011 8:17PM

    If we all lie (and I'm pretty sure that's so . . . ) you're also ruthless about confronting the lies. Yikes!!

And after all that -- were surely entitled to lie down, at least. Yeah!!

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/14/2011 7:47PM

    LOL... next thing you know, you'll be putting up one of those wires that makes it OK for the Hasidim to walk from house to house by considering it the same house... on the Sabbath.

Today my "reward" was a walk to the library. Probably about 5 miles, round trip. The tricky thing about making activity a "reward" is that if I procrastinate on my housekeeping, I might decide not to exercise--"work before play"... which is one of the perfectionist rules that got ME fat.

Sounds like you ended up with a good day, too! To honesty with ourselves. Spark on! emoticon

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JEMPOWER 8/14/2011 7:42PM

    Wow, you are great at talking yourself into getting things done.


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A Day at the Gym

Friday, August 12, 2011

Yesterday I went to the gym. That makes two weeks in a row that I've gone to the gym twice. Twice a week lifting weights is good for me. My body complains if I try to lift on alternate days, but it's fine with a three day lag. Seven day weeks being what they are, that means the best I can expect is a Monday-Thursday, Monday-Friday, or Tuesday-Friday lifting schedule. Yesterday's agenda was Romanian deadlifts, lat pulls (because I'm too weak for pullups), dumbbell incline chest presses, and walking lunges.

The owner recognizes me, but there are many new faces in the weight room. I see a few old regulars that I recognize, and a lot of unfamiliar people who have well defined bodies and look like they know what they're doing. Of course, I still see the usual plates left on bars and bars left at abandoned stations, a mute testimony to the fact that clueless n00bs have been here.

Between sets, I sometimes peek at what other people are doing. Yes, most of them know what they're doing. Some of the young guys with well defined bodies are working on explosive moves that I could not do safely. Most of the ones doing traditional lifts are using good form. Sometimes I see a lift that I haven't done, and I think about incorporating it into my rotation. Right now I'm thinking about dropping the weight on my military press, and instead doing a hang clean and press. I like compound moves that use several major muscles; they're time efficient for me.

Yesterday while I was doing my warmups (Turkish getup/windmill combos followed by a few kettlebell snatches), I heard a couple of young, well defined body types talking. One was describing a diet theory that cut carbs to almost nothing while overloading on protein and working hard. Apparently that's part of the cutting phase to prepare for a modeling show or body building competition, designed to force the body to burn fat while rebuilding the muscle that the diet also loses. I kept a straight face and didn't say anything. I suspect that kind of diet can't be good for health, and that you need to be young to tolerate it in cycles for that kind of vanity. But if that's what those guys want to do, well, I'm not their trainer.

A bit later, an odd thing happened. I had finished one set of something and was walking toward the drinking fountain. Another guy and I dodged around each other in a perfectly normal maneuver for a crowded gym floor, and he mumbled "excuse me" in a tone that seemed to indicate he was deferring to me. A while after that, I figured it out. Saw the same guy, a younger fellow, doing DB chest presses. He was using 20 pound dumbbells, which isn't very much for a young healthy male to press. The light dawned.

This guy is a newbie, and he identified me as a regular! Now, there are two major types of newbies. One is the clueless n00b who is going to wash out and is oblivious. The other is the serious newbie who wants to make this work, and is trying to learn without getting in the way of people he sees as more experienced and knowledgeable than he is. This guy was the second kind. I used to be that guy, except I was a lot older when I was at that stage.

That was a minor ego boost. I don't see myself as a regular at the gym yet. Haven't been doing this consistently long enough. Don't have the well defined body saying I've done this consistently. But to a new lifter, I look like a regular who knows what he's doing.

Must be those Turkish getups. emoticon They do look impressive to people who have never done them.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BARBAELLEN 8/12/2011 10:03PM

    Well, I've now learned that there are two types of gym n00bs, clueless and serious.

You know you've arrived when a serious n00b thinks you're a regular who knows what he's doing!

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DRUIDPRINCESS 8/12/2011 9:58PM

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us - it was very heart-warming and you must be so proud of your achievement! My warm-fuzzy moment was when my Bodypump teacher called me "pocket rocket" in front of the whole class! It seems that these moments come unexpectedly but fortunately at times when we might be asking ourselves "why the effort" ... and they give us the answer!

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/12/2011 8:34PM

    Yes, they do. emoticon

Congrats on your increased status, in the eyes of a serious n00b.

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Weighing and Measuring

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Measurement is the fundamental problem of managing diet and exercise for weight loss. We all know that if we expend more calories than we take in, over time we should lose weight. The problem is that there isn't an easy, accurate way to measure either side of the equation.

For most of us, measuring calories expended is a lost cause. We don't know what our basal metabolism burns for sure, and we have no good way to quantify exercise in excess of basal metabolism. The SP fitness tracker is nice for motivating me to keep doing stuff, but I have no confidence in the calories burned numbers it generates. Bicycling at 13 mph is not any harder for me than walking at 4.2 mph, and in fact is a bit easier. But the fitness tracker gives me an awful lot more calories for the biking than the walking. I have no idea whether the biking is overstated, the walking understated, a bit of both, or they're both off by different amounts in the same direction. And there are no calories added for lifting weights. I know I'm buring a lot more calories doing 3 sets of 8 deadlifts at 185 lbs than I am walking down the street for the time it takes me to do those three sets.

So how do people know how many calories they're burning? Typically by seeing how many calories they're consuming and whether this is producing a weight gain or loss. Measuring calories consumed is an inexact science, but at least it's better than measuring calories expended.

I came across an interesting video about losing weight the other day:

Superficially, this is a plug for weighing instead of measuring volume. It seems a bit overblown to me, probably because the real purpose is to sell books from the web site mentioned late in the video. But I do see an element of truth in the video, even if I draw a different lesson from those facts than the folks who made it.

For those of you who didn't want to go watch the video, or quit in disgust at the overdramatic style, the premise is that the average dieter understates what she eats by using generous volume measurement, and the conclusion is that this is a reason diets can fail. The secondary conclusion is that this can be corrected by using weight measurement instead of volume measurement.

I look at the same facts, assuming they are actually facts, a bit differently. I see the problem as one of system and attitude. The systemic problem is a diet that says you must eat X servings of defined size. The attitude problem is following the diet but cheating on the serving size, whether consciously or not.

Fortunately, the SP nutrition tracker lets me set up a different system to accommodate a different attitude. The attitude is that I want to accurately record what I eat, and I don't want to be forced into predetermined serving sizes. The system is, if I use foods that are defined as grams or ounces or cups instead of servings, I can measure what I eat and put the real measurement in, then the computer will figure out the nutrition values and tell me what I used and what I have left for the day.

It's true that the scale is more accurate than volume measurement, particularly for foods that can be of varying density. A week or so ago, I bought some pre-made salad at Walmart. I found that someone had already put in the nutrition information; but they had recorded the serving size as 3 cups. I put the same information in for myself, and recorded the serving size as 85 grams. Why? I don't want to eat 3 cups of salad. I want to pour how much looks right into my bowl, and know what I have. That's a lot easier with a food scale than with a measuring cup.

And the scale is an awful lot more accurate than estimating, for example, a medium potato. I buy russet potatoes. The SP guidelines for small, medium and large russet potatoes tell me diameter in inches. My potatoes aren't even close to being spherical, and come in more than three or four different sizes. Fortunately, red potatoes are measured in grams. I think I'm closer to the real value by calling 186 grams of russet potato the same amount of red potato than I would be trying to guess whether the potato was small or medium.

So I kind of come to the same solution as the video, even if I think the video is overdramatic. I like weighing for the accuracy. I've come to like grams better than ounces, because the margin of error is smaller. The margin of error when I weigh in grams is so small that it doesn't matter.

There are still some things I measure by volume, including oatmeal. Why? Because I've been making oatmeal for years, and making it based on volume. One part oatmeal to two parts milk, and if the measuring cup is filled to the same level for the oatmeal as for the milk, it works. I'm going to do this once per day, usually 5 days per week. Oh, and my measurement is 1/3 cup, not the arbitrary 1/2 cup that is the serving size on the package of oatmeal. It's enough.

Similarly, I'm going to fill my 8 oz. glass to a consistent level and not worry about whether it's really 8.5 oz. or 7.5 oz. The difference a half ounce of milk or orange juice makes just isn't big enough to worry about, and I'm not doing this five times a day.

But stuff that's hard to measure by volume - that gets weighed. It's just easier to tell how much I'm eating when I weigh it.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BARBAELLEN 8/12/2011 12:07AM

    Uh-oh! I watched the video. Yep, that's a pretty accurate description of how I've been measuring. Tells me a bit about why I'm not losing as quickly as I would expect.

On the plus side, I AM measuring, and that's a far cry from what I did before. When I started food tracking, it took one shot at measuring to see that what I'd THOUGHT a serving should be was not even close to reality. So, skewed or not, my "measured" portions are a dramatic reduction in calories.

I realized I'd gained weight by not paying attention. Now I pay attention. I've decided not to panic after seeing the significant flaws in my calorie measurements. The fact is, I'm steadily losing weight, albeit slowly. Hopefully, I'll continue to do okay eating "about a cup" servings instead of eating three-cup servings! If not, I'll reassess.

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/11/2011 9:40PM

    I have to admit to giggling a bit when I read this, bro. You see, you are at the point I was at back in my WW days of 1989: perfectionist about accuracy. I weighed out my portion sizes oh, so carefully.

In my more recent years: close enough is close enough. Majority of behavior rules. I maintained my way an additional 20 pounds down after having reached goal. I think my body has reached a place where it's happy. I'm not as careful as I used to be, but I AM careful. Then again, I'm at goal and maintaining, happily so.

You are doing great, and you will continue to do so... what the weighing and measuring does is open our eyes and educate us. And we learn quickly when we're lying to ourselves about how much we're eating.

I've seen some gross self-deception in my life... not just on my part, but on the part of others who were attempting to lose weight... like not counting the mayo on their sandwiches. Or the oil their french fries were fried in? The two bites of Hershey kisses from the break room? My being off by an ounce of baked potato is not going to hold a candle to that.

Rest assured, when burnout on the weighing and measuring hits... you will have learned a thing or two about eye-balling portion sizes, and it will stand you in good stead. You'll only have to go back to this level of precision "once in a while" to give yourself a reality check. It's not just a matter of "underestimating", it can swing the other way... one can UNDER-eat, and this can cause the body to slow down its metabolism!

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JULIARD 8/11/2011 9:33PM

  Whether you measure or weigh or use some other sort of tracking device the issue is the same; people tend to underestimate what they eat (how much) and overestimate their caloric expenditure. So, while keeping a food journal, or tracking on SP or measuring foods or keeping a fitness dairy are really good tools, not everyone is inclined to do those things. Research shows that all of those things work to make people more aware of their actions. It is never implied that people should do that forever, just for starters. But some get so turned off by the concept of engaging in those strategies, that they don't and continue to overconsume and underexpend.

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Reminiscence of Weight Loss Efforts Past

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My first serious effort to deliberately lose weight was in 2004-2005. I was on a message board that discussed this, though it was pretty primitive by SP standards. Basically, a bunch of people who wanted to lose weight talked to each other.

I found some of those messages recently, and I'm struck by how naive my attitude was. I spent a lot of time moaning about how poor my dietary control was, and how evil the Snack Days at work were. My strategy was to just try to eat somewhat reasonably, and outwork what I ate. It even worked for a while. I dutifully posted weekly weigh-ins, starting at a bit over 200. Getting below 200 by 12/31/04 was a major accomplishment for me.

In 2005, I bounced off 188. The record on the message board has gains and losses, and I faded away somewhere around 195 or 196. The support from others evaporated when the numbers stopped going down.

This morning I weighed in at 190. Yesterday, the dehydrated morning after an evening at the gym, I was at 188.8. But this time, I'm quantifying what I eat instead of just trying to use will power to be reasonable. Somehow, I don't think I'm going to bounce off 188 and keep going back up in 2011.

I haven't been on SparkPeople long enough to guarantee that I won't have the same failure of motivation here, eventually, as I had in 2005. But some other stuff has changed in my life since 2004 to make the prognosis for longer term stability better. I've picked up some skills since then that are useful to the effort. While I've been on and off the fitness wagon, I haven't been back to the levels of unfitness that I had in the late 1990s; and my climbing back on the wagon deadlift in 2011 was for 10 pounds more than what I wrote about in 2005. Also, now I'm an empty nester and the major stressors in my personal life from 2002 through 2010 have pretty much been resolved favorably.

I think I can do this, but I need to be realistic. If I'm going to get to a healthy weight and stay there the rest of my life, I'm going to have to record what I eat for the rest of my life. It's just too easy for me to slip into bad habits if I don't have to record it and look at what I'm doing in near real time.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MACILINN 8/11/2011 3:59AM

    I hear ya moby. I have lost and gained the same 30 pds 3 times now in the last 5 yrs. each time I did a daily accountability. (Jems) and when I stopped boom! the wt came on faster than I could stop it. This time I am starting at 3 pds lower than my highest wt ever! Ouch. I can say though like you I can feel it coming off ever so slowly. You are right , you cannot ex it off. I wkout more than anyone I know and have consistantly for about 5 yrs. It's the cals that count for me, + the movement. Keep it up sparkbro, we can do this. You can and will reach your 188 again, i will be cheering you on! ~Maci~

Comment edited on: 8/11/2011 4:00:02 AM

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WATERMELLEN 8/10/2011 10:07PM

    Yup: having maintained weight loss since 2001 pretty consistently (with a few blips, 80+ pounds) can say that daily food tracking is the key for me. Can't out-exercise the food, can never work out hard enough to eat whatever I want. And if I waited to be motivated, I'd still be 230 pounds. For me the motivation is actually after-acquired: after I've done the tracking!!

Sounds to me like this is the right time and the right constellation of factors for you to take it off and keep it off.

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/10/2011 9:43PM

    As with any other life skill, practice makes better. You may have to have some form of "accountability" for some time to come... skills and habits erode if not monitored. But you may not have to weigh and measure food every day, every meal, forever, once you get used to your faves... you know the level to pour the milk in the glass to get your 8 ounces, etc. You'll do like I do and measure the food on the restaurant plate with your eyes, and decide it's really 3 portions, not one.

But the amnesia of not recording is powerful! Writing it down so you know what you've done is the most powerful tool in the box. Kinda like... budget... recording... huh?

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