Not your average suburban mom. I’m more your typical, normal, commonplace, everyday, garden-variety suburban mom. With a thesaurus.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How I Lost 19 pounds and 13% Body Fat in 90 Days (A.K.A. The Most Detailed Post EVER)

Gun Show in town.
Me and my nephew "Brennan the Bicep".
Also, Esther photobombs her mama with
rabbit ears. Always a classic.
(This post is a giant shout out to the lady behind the blog What DID we do all day? a homeschooling blog focused on Montessori education. She has been really patient with me as it has taken me forever to follow through with this promised post about the details of my weight lifting experience. So, thanks for your patience and I hope this is helpful!)

First of all, I am incredibly unqualified to write anything remotely professional about weight lifting. I am a newbie in every sense of the word. But I can share the things I have learned these past two months, and the things I am doing that have contributed to a 19 pound weight loss and 13% loss of body fat.

So what the heck is lifting heavy? How much weight do you need to lift in order to meet the criteria for the latest in workout buzzwords? Here's the short answer - it's really subjective. It's kind of like when someone asks me, "Are you a fast runner?" because I always think, "Compared to what?" I'm much slower than a cheetah. I'm barely much slower than Meb Keflezighi. But I'm faster than I was two years ago. And I'm definitely faster than I was four years ago, when I did not run at all. So, um, yeah I'm a fast runner ... compared to me.

It's similar with lifting heavy. Do I lift heavy? Compared to the bro in the Meathead section deadlifting 400 pounds, no, I don't lift heavy. But do I lift heavy compared to me? HECK YES I do. 

There are a bunch of websites that try to give a mathematical formula for finding your perfect lifting heavy weight, but they were all way too advanced for a beginner like me. Most of them started with "Take 70% of your max lifting load..." and I was all, "How do I find my max lifting load when I have to Google and Youtube whatever fancy exercise you want me to do to begin with?" Also, math was involved, which is pretty much a deal breaker for me right there. Thankfully I had Kemper with me the first time to help pick a starting weight.*

(*You can read about my first "lifting heavy" workout with Kemper by clicking here. He basically ran me through a simple introductory workout using cabled machines. It was a great starting point because I felt like I understood what it felt like to lift heavy and could do the routine without a spotter or a trainer standing next to me. (Although I did have to refrain from asking Kemper to walk me over to the Meathead side of the gym so I could use the leg press on more than one occasion, because while I didn't need someone to spot my weight I surely needed emotional support.)(Because Meatheads.)

But honestly, you can do it without a Kemper (although if you live in Southeastern Michigan it would be much much easier just to hire him). The most helpful thing Kemper has said about weights has been to "play with it." He told me to play around with weights until I found a weight that I could lift 6-8 times in a row for 3 sets. By the end set I should be struggling to finish the last few reps. That, to me, is a really good working definition of lifting heavy. (In my perfect little Type A world that was really hard to hear, because I did not want to play "guess and check" in the middle of a crowded gym. I mean, what more telling way to be outed as the Fat Mom Poser than to have to readjust my weights mid-set?)(But guess what I discovered? NO ONE IS WATCHING BECAUSE NO ONE CARES.)(Shocker.) But using that definition and watching for the struggle has been really helpful advice, and it also lets me know when I am ready to up my weights. When it gets too easy and I finish three complete sets without any problem, I know it's time to go heavier.

Here is my current routine. I have been lifting weights since late March of this year. I did the same routine Kemper initially showed me for a few weeks, and then changed it up to the one I currently do. These are what my current workouts look like:

Monday: Arm/Ab Day (am) and a Core Blast class (pm):

I start with a 5 minute treadmill jog. I set the incline for 1% and the speed at 5.3 mph. This is just enough to get my blood flowing.

Next, I superset chest press and seated rows. This is a fancy way to say that I do these two exercises back to back without rest between them. I rest between each set for about 30 seconds to a minute.

chest press: 3 sets of 8 reps at 50-60 lbs
seated row: 3 sets of 8 reps at 50-60 lbs

(So, supersetting these means that I get on the chest press machine and push out 8 reps, jump on the seated row machine and pull back 8 reps, and then rest 30 seconds to a minute. Then I repeat that two more times.)

I also superset lateral pulldown (machine) and shoulder press (dumbbells)

lateral pulldown: 3 sets of 8-10 reps at 75-85 lbs
shoulder press: 3 sets of 12 reps at 20 lbs in each hand

I superset assisted pullups and assisted dips (both cabled machine)

assisted pullups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps at 55 lbs
assisted dips 3 sets of 8-10 reps at 55 lbs

assisted wide pullups: 3 sets of 8 reps at 70 lbs (on a good day)

I superset bicep curls and tricep dips (on a ledge or stool) (dumbbells)

bicep curls: 3 sets of 10 reps at 15 lbs
tricep dips: 3 sets of 20 dips at body weight

lateral raises: 3 sets of 10 reps at 10 lbs in each hand

Ab Workout:

I superset 1 minute planks with the following exercises:

Russian twist with a medicine ball: 3 sets of 20 reps with a 15 second v-sit hold
bicycle crunch: 3 sets of 20 reps
toe touch crunches: 3 sets of 20 reps
roll ups: 3 sets of 10 reps
superman: 3 sets of 30 seconds (sometimes with a medicine ball)

Cool down run: This is honestly as long as I have time for. It's at least five minutes, but I just run until I have to stop in order to have time to stretch before I have to get home.

Core Blast (pm)

I love this class. It's starts with stability work, and then spends about 45 minutes doing circuits of ab work, high intensity cardio drills, and recovery drills. Kevin teaches it, and he is always incorporating moves he stole borrowed from Insanity or Crossfit. He changes it up a lot as well, so I never get bored. Also, I want to physical harm him at least twice a class, which I'm pretty sure is how you judge the efficiency of a fitness instructor.

Tuesday: REST DAY!!!!

I train mine using the Watching Copious Amounts of HGTV plan.

Wednesday: Leg Day (am) and Run (pm)

Treadmill warmup. (Same as Arm/Ab day)

I'm pretty sure this is what comes after I learn to use
the Olympic bar.
I start with squats. I do 2 sets of 8 reps non-weighted squats to warm up because I have tight hip flexors. Then I do 4 working sets. (I rest about 30 seconds between sets.)
squats: 2 sets of 8 reps at 40 lbs (free weights)
squats: 2 sets of 8 reps at 50 lbs (free weights)

I am greatly anticipating this changing tonight because I have a session with Kemper and he is going to teach me how to squat with the Olympic bar. Right now I'm limited to a weight I can safely press over my own head, so the heaviest I've gone is 50 pounds. I'M SO EXCITED TO SQUAT!!!!

Deadlifts: 2 sets of 8 reps at 75 lbs (free weights)
                3 sets of 8 reps at 85 lbs (free weights)

Leg Press (machine): 2 sets of 8 reps at 220 lbs
                                 2 sets of 8 reps at 270 lbs
                                 2 sets of 8 reps at 290 lbs

I superset lunges and bridges: (free weights)

Standing lunges: 3 sets of 10 reps with 20 lbs in each hand
Bridge: 3 sets of 15 with a 15 second hold

I superset hamstring curl and leg extension (cable machine)

Hamstring curl: 3 sets of 12 reps at 40 lbs
Leg extension: 3 sets of 12 reps at 70 lbs

Treadmill run cool down.

Run (pm)

This run is more for sanity reasons than anything else. It's really easy, and my legs are still pretty pumped up from the morning workout. (I generally don't get too sore until the next day.)

Thursday: Swim Day/ Rest Day (pm) !!!

I swim on Thursdays, but treat this swim as a rest day. It's really a maintenance swim so I don't have to start from scratch when I decide to do another triathlon. I focus on bilateral breathing and a slowish pace.

kick: 200 yards
swim: 600 yards (1 x 50 with 10 seconds rest)
kick: 200 yards 

Honestly? The kicking is so I can chat with Sarah ;-) She goes earlier than me and gets the bulk of her workout done so that we can have adequate talk time. 

Friday: Arm/Ab Day Repeated (am)

Saturday: Social Time with Sarah Treadmill (am)

Saturdays are some of my favorite workouts because I do what I want. I always run, but lately I've been trying to focus on speedwork. I really baby my left foot still. A normal workout looks something like this:

(Warmup: 5 mins at 1% incline at 3.4 mph)

Run: 5 mins at 1% incline at 5.5 mph
Run: 2 mins at 1% incline at 5.9 mph
Walk: 5 mins at 8% incline at 3.4 mph

(Cooldown: 5 mins at 1% incline at 3.5)

I repeat this cycle for about an hour. Each 2 minute run cycle increases by .1 every cycle. So by the end of my workout, my 2 minute cycle is at about 6.3-6.4 mph. (See above - am I fast? Currently for me, this is fast.) I honestly don't know that this workout does anything to improve my fitness, but I do it because it's fun. The time flies by, and I can talk with Sarah or people watch galore during this session. (And the Saturday morning people watching at Lifetime is a GOLDMINE.)

Sunday: Leg Day Repeated (am)

That's generally it. Also, I'll change everything up when I mentally (or physically) get bored. I keep a journal not only for food but also for my workouts and for how much sleep I get. This is totally obsessive and is just because my brain likes lists and having visual reminders of progress. Because I'm a nerd.

I hope that was helpful. Sorry for the loooooooong post, and thanks to all that made it to the end. Have a glorious Monday!


  1. WHY did you have to remind me I should be doing maintenance swimming? WHY??! I was feeling guilty about it anyway.... Ok since I'm asking questions, do you not have a squat rack? Because if you don't that seriously blows. I know for a fact you can do way more than 50 pds. Oh wait, if he shows you how to use the bar then you can use the rack? Did I guess it? Sweeeeetttt! Oh the fun you will have now! You should do a max dead lift just to see what you can get. If you feel like your back is rounding stop but try a max set! Say like 5 5 3 3 1 1 So you would do probably what you're doing now 5 times for two sets. Then add on heavier see if you can crank out three. Then do your heaviest for one rep. Makes you feel like a meathead.:) And dannnnggg look at that bicep! You ARE a meathead! Wait, I mean that in a good way. Brodin would be proud, swole on my friend, swole on.

    1. Lol - Kemper taught me to squat Monday night and I did 105 pounds! It was my 5th set and I did 6-8 reps at that weight. I proudly felt like a meathead.

      Maintenance swimming is the jam. It reminds me of mall walking it's so low-key.

  2. Kelly,

    Thank you SO much for this. It was very detailed and very helpful. I think I know what to do next.

    1. You are welcome! It was kind of fun to write, and I think I'll enjoy looking back on it to remember what I did during this season of my life. Keep me posted on how things go for you, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Whatever I don't know I can just ask Kemper. Happy training - go BEAST MODE!! :)


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