On my last Fitness Friday post I got a request from a lovely reader named Lauren to do a post on what got me started in my fitness journey so I thought that instead of posting a bunch of workouts this week, I would share how I became Lil Miss Fitness Freak.
Small and Mighty…
I have received a long list of nicknames over the 6+ years I have been training in the gym. Despite feeling as if I shouldn’t care about how others view me, I can take pride in the fact that my small stature (5 foot frame) has not held me back strength wise…and sometimes…it shocks people. Check out my PR’s I posted last week! So proud. 😀
These days, I know my way around a gym now and can confidently work my way through an intense session that I have created for myself …
Contrary to how I may portray myself, I was not born in a gym. That said, just like everyone else, I had to start somewhere. I had to start off as a blank slate. I had to learn the foundation and techniques of lifting. I had to learn what my body could do. I have had to learn how to adjust exercises to ‘fit’ my stature.
I too was a newb at one point.
All of these basic things I had to learn I can thank my dad for as he was the one who took the time to train with with his lil girl when I expressed the desire to step away from sports (I had gone through many and really never fell in love with any of them…exception was tennis!) and step into the gym to do some heavy lifting. I did try out a personal trainer for a bit, and although she was great, I still credit most of the foundation (technique and dos and don’ts of lifting) to my father.
Fit Tip 1: When first starting out, get someone with experience to show you the ropes. After you know some foundation, you can use other tools like youtube, magazines, etc to learn new exercises. It is very hard to start off with the latter as you need to have that mind body connection first (aka knowing what a basic lift should feel like, gaining that coordination, etc) or else your technique will suffer.
Yeah that’s right, I went into the gym knowing I wanted to LIFT. No cardio bunnies here. I tried cardio here and there and, well…
Enough said. You all agree with me. Cardio sucks and even today my mindset remains the same. So I just don’t do it. 😉
***Please, cardiovascular training is good for conditioning the heart, lungs and contributing to your overall level of fitness so don’t take this as me saying that no one should do it. Everyone should work those muscles in some way shape or form for good health. I bike my lil tuff almost everywhere I go so I then don’t do any isolated cardio training in the gym***
For me currently, cardio also gets in the way of my goals (weight and muscle gain) so that is another hindrance. Anywho, enough about that, back to the main post.
So the first day I walked into the gym with my dad I was super excited to get going. He showed me the ropes, starting with machines and cables (mostly the latter) and very quickly also got me lifting with dumbbells. Maybe my memory is just remembering my first experiences in a favourable light but I don’t ever remember having major coordination issues when I first started off with the dumbbells.
Fit Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of the weights ladies PLEASE! I will repeat this until I am blue in the face, you will not turn into a man. Weights make curves not bulk. Trust me, the things you would have to do to ‘bulk’…I digress.
The rest is history. I fell in love with training and slowly weaned myself off my dad’s routines by throwing in my own things until I was mostly working out solo, which is what I prefer today. Don’t get me wrong, having a partner definitely has it’s perks sometimes when you find someone with the same mindset and goals as you (spots, motivation, etc) but with my workouts these days, a partner would just slow me down.
For about a year, my dad and I would still go to the gym together but we were doing mostly separate workouts OR we would have a certain body part we would be doing together and then I would be doing supersets in between on my own (yes the superset queen was starting to emerge).
Then it was time for Lil Miss Fitness Freak to spread her wings and tackle the student gym all alone at McMaster where I was accepted to attend University. This gym, which was brand new and amazing, was the Pulse. Now, some people, especially females I find, are skeptical and sometimes even afraid to enter a busy gym to work out. This can sometimes lead to people ‘falling off the wagon’ so to speak because they say they are too uncomfortable working out with all the big guys who will just gawk at them.
So, what’s a lil 5 foot girl to do?
Stomp right into the mosh pit that was the weight floor (cardio bunnies upstairs) at 4:30pm (peak time) with confidence and do my thing. Getter done!
Fit Tip 3: Don’t enter a gym with the mindset that you are going to be judged. I mean let’s be honest here, mirror to wall ratio is like 1:1 suggesting that most people are focused on themselves the majority of the time when they are working out. It’s the truth. Unless you are uber loud (oh hey screamers), obnoxious, dangerous (swinging things around like a crazy person) or a girl in a sports bra and shortie short shorts, you are not the centre of attention.
Personally I find it sad when so many girls are just too intimidated to come downstairs (in the case of the Pulse) and hit the weights as they are so beneficial! I really wish sometimes I could take these girls under my lil arm and show them the ropes. Anyways, as I have alluded to, the reality is that there are not that many girls on the weight floor and because of this, I rounded up some additional nicknames as more and more people began to spot the tiny girl doing some heavy liftin.
Pink Towel Girl (I ‘claim’ machines with this towel as I do my super sets. Oh the infamous towel)
Girl always doing abs (Guilty. Yes you don’t have to do abs everyday. Yes, despite this, I choose to incorporate them in all my sessions cuz I’m crazy like that :-D)
More recently (past year or so) I have really taken my lifting to the next level. With the ultimate goal to put on some lean mass, I really wanted to see where my body could go strength wise and I will say that I’m definitely surprised and happy with how far I have come since I started back in first year (I have now been at the Mac gym for 4.5 years). My strength has sky rocketed this year (thanks extra food) and I couldn’t be more proud.
Once again though, my routines that have seen these results didn’t just appear out of nowhere. The training style I follow today is a compilation of tips and advice from a number of different people who I look up to. One person in particular who really pushed me to try out ‘power lifting’ or lifting to your maximum (IE failure…spotters required) was Jeff, a personal trainer and friend from my gym back at home. From a knowledge perspective, he knows his stuff! He experimented with his own workouts and came to a style of training that has led him to see great changes in his physique and overall mental and physical well being. Today, he has now moved on to bigger and better things but I can not thank him enough for his strong words of advice. He also got me hooked on Barleans fish oils, which is an added nutrition bonus 😉
He suggested that I try a 3 day split (full body each day) focusing on rep and weight ranges rather than isolating body parts. To explain further, he told me to try out one day of all 5×5 sets, then the next day would be 4×8 and the last day would be 3×12. This variety would ensure that you your body would be constantly challenged and not really able to adapt and thus plateau. Plus, it gives you some space for a variety of exercises so that no workout would be the same. So keeping your mentally stimulated.
Fit Tip 4: Ensure you have variety in your workouts. Don’t come in with the same routine every time. Not only will you get bored and not want to do it, but your body is smart and will adapt to it leaving you will no more room to grow and change.
I did this for a lil bit and definitely saw some good gains, BUT I missed my isolation workouts. Yes, I’m a person who just loves to burn out a muscle group completely. So with that, I bring you to my current training style that combines a lil bit of all three in a single workout. I know what you’re going to say…Volume much? Yeah, I like it. 😀
The 5×5 sets that I always start off with are my power aspect and a good gauge as to where my strength is at. These are always to start as they take a lot of energy and generally require longer rest breaks…oh and spotters. Always have a spotter when you are going to failure.
4×6-8 are my hypertrophy sets. I generally include 2 of these per workout. Still lifting to my max, but a bit lighter to reach for those could more repetitions. These types of rep ranges are supposedly the best for building strength, but I tend to like them because I can still lift heavy and it’s not like I’m doing a million reps (I get mentally exhausted..bored… after going over 12 :-P).
3×10-12 is always my last set of exercises. I like to call these my burnouts as this is when I will really pick up my pace and just get them done as quickly as possible to really fry that muscle group out. This leaves you nice and tired.
Fit Tip 5: Do what you love. If you like full body the best. Do that. Isolation your thing? Do that. As long as you are challenging your body and going in the direction of your goals, the types of workouts your choose are essentially limitless. You are the one who will be doing these routines so you better have a good time doing them.
So that how Lil Miss Fitness Freak came to be a gymrat. I knew from the beginning that weights were for me. Not cardio. I loved the way they make me feel strong and powerful. I wanted muscle. I wanted to build strength and push my body to the limits. I wanted to know how far I could take this lil frame.
Now today, here I am lifting as heavy as possible, making some great progress and gaining respect from other lifters around me. The confidence that weight lifting has given me in and outside the gym is amazing. This is an important part of my life and will continue to be that way for the rest of my time. It’s my lifestyle and I love it.
Learn what you love to do and go for it!