By Consummate Athlete Member, Jacqueline:
I was asked to write an article for The Strength Shop. I have been an active participant in The Strength Shop and The Consummate Athlete since their conception but I have always been behind the scenes. I never felt like I was good enough to have anything useful to offer to the readers. This is because I am not a trainer, I am not an athlete, I am just your average 43 year old woman. I do not have a background in sports or nutrition. I started working out in college, and I really use that term loosely, as I never had any follow through. I would hire a trainer and show up for my sessions. We would do the basic body building stuff, curls, smith machine squats, and other various machines. I never got any results, and I never continued.
Now, as luck would have it my father happens to be a physician, specifically a nephrologist (kidney doctor). In the morning, my dad asked me, "How are you doing?" I said, "Not great , it really really hurts, and I think my thighs are swollen." I am sure immediately he was thinking drama queen! Being my dad, he says, "Okay, why don't you come over and go in the hot tub." That actually sounded like music to my ears. Except for the part where I actually had to move, get dressed, and drive, but we do what we have to. So I got up, I used the bath room, and I noticed something looked a little different. I am not sure what the exact color of this text is, but does it look like a deep brown, almost like dark blood?" Well, that is what I want it to look like, because that is EXACTLY what the color of my urine was. Now at the time I didn't even think twice that this was related, how could it be? I got to my dad's and into the hot tub, I started to feel a tad better. Then I very nonchalantly asked my dad, "What would cause me to have blood in my urine?" My dad replied, "I have no idea what are you talking about?" I explained to him, "Well, when I went to the bath room this morning, my urine looked like really dark brown blood." So, I did what any good daughter would do I went and grabbed a dixie cup and peed in it. He took one look and pretty much blew a gasket. Yep, he became extremely upset.
Apparently, I was not being a drama queen at all, but I had so much muscle breakdown that it was spilling over into my kidneys causing toxicity. This apparently is called rhabdo or something, and can put you straight into kidney failure. As this is my dads specialty, you can imagine he was less then thrilled. Actually, he became very upset with me and the trainers at the training facility letting such a thing happen. In the end I was fine, I had to consume a ton of water, and I did heal right up. Anyway, the reason I am starting off with this story, is because I want to make it clear where I started on my journey to where I am now. I was NOT overweight, and I would NOT ever consider myself inactive (remember I was working at a horse farm) but I was NOT use to working out, and this happened to me without putting any weight on my back. I was doing repetitive chair squats (from what I recall). The moral, be educated, start slow, and do not be try to be superman or superwoman! So I continued to work out, for probably a year or two. I would do a lot of cardio and your typically body building machines ect. I never really worried about strength or function, for me, at this time, it was "the thinner the better." I would go to the gym in the morning and do cardio, then go back and train for half hour with coach ( I use this word loosely, as I am much more knowledgeable now). Eventually, I burned out, it was too much and started to consume my life, and I stopped working out all together. I didn't see the inside of the gym for approximately two years.
So what got me back to the gym? Here is what really did it; I was at a party, and my ex-boyfriend was there with his new HOT girlfriend who just happened to be a personal trainer, ARGGGHHHH. Can you say jealous? At this time, I was probably 35. Now again I was not overweight, I just knew I could be more fit. I went home that night and vowed, I am going to get my ass back to the gym and get in shape. At that moment it was all about my ex being with some new hot personal trainer chic. It had nothing to do with my health or anything like that. I am being honest, we have all done stupid things like this before, and sometimes even if our reasons are not the best reasons for doing something in the end it all works out. So the next day, I signed up for personal training at a local gym. I started doing the same old body building crap. I had a different, but equally crappy trainer, who knew nothing. My training sessions basically consisted of me doing a few sets of squats for 3 reps of 135 lbs. WHY? Honestly, my trainer thought it was cool that I could squat 135lbs. It had nothing to do with me, my health, or my performance. It was more about him showing off to whoever was standing next to him that his female client was squatting 135. (I was not in any sort of muscle gym obviously).
Squatting 135 at that time for 3-5 reps was really actually very hard for me, and it was really hard for me to do every time I showed up for training. There was never a break from it. We never focused on any assistance exercises. We did not focus on anything except my trainer tooting his own horn to whoever would listen. Which is so strange because he had nothing to do with my ability. He taught me nothing. He was bragging while I was doing all the work. Anyway the rest of our exercises consisted of some machine work, and even some new exercises on machines that he "invented." YES!, you heard me, he INVENTED! There were many new uses for a leg press machine. He invented how when you sit backwards in it and try to push weight you basically can snap your ankle in two. That is when I went straight to the manager and said, "Your trainer is a nut job and is going to kill someone, meaning mainly ME." I explained to the manager, "My trainer has no clue what he is doing, he is making up some crazy ass exercises on the machines that are not intended to be used that way." So the manager says to me, "I will take care of it, we have a new trainer who just moved down from New Jersey, I think you will like him." I said, "Fine, nothing can be worse then what I am dealing with." This is how I found a whole new world of training. Something, that I look forward to doing, something that gives me purpose, something that empowers me. I think they call it training for function and purpose! :)
So my very first session with my new trainer Kevin, exposed me to doing things like standing on one leg, holding a dumbbell, attempting to do a dumbbell snatch, (and I say attempting because it literally took me 3 months before I even came close to getting it). It just progressed from there to: flipping tires, hitting tires with sledgehammers (one of my favs btw), working on balance, working on agility (I have none), and lifing weights for strength and power. It became about me working on performance and my whole body working as one unit. I fell in love. I FELL IN LOVE! Then I learned how to clean dumbbells, then progressed to cleaning and snatching a barbell. I was not brilliant at it, I am still not brilliant at it, but I love it, and I want to work at it. I literally would go to bed thinking and dreaming about it. I bought weightlifting shoes, then I bought my own equipment. I would literally carry my equipment; bars and bumpers to the gym or to a park. I did not care I just wanted to lift. It sounds like bringing sand to the beach when you walk in to a gym with your own bar and plates, but they didn't have appropriate equipment and I did what I needed to do. I could not wait to get my hands on the barbell. Then practicing squatting and dead lifting all had a purpose. I also was exposed to kettlbells and just so many different variations of some many different things, it was like being in a candy store. I am no muscle woman, I am 43 years old and 5'3". My point is anyone can do this, you don't have to be perfect you just have to enjoy the ride.
Okay so 150 for 20 reps is completed. It was hard, IT WAS HARD. Again that voice in my head immediately started telling me, "I am done that is my max, just be happy, you can't work any harder then that, ect." I am telling you on the Saturday before the next Monday workout, I was already coming up with the excuses and worrying about Monday's squat session. It really is a mental game as much as physical one, ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT. Monday arrived, I was stressing about squatting all day, I just kept telling myself, get the bar on your back and start, then you can see if you can do it or not. I got to the gym, put 155 on the bar and started, It took me over 3 minutes 30 secs (yes that is long) to complete, but I did not re-rack that bar, and I hit every single rep with integrity. Trust me, I wanted to rack the bar many times, my legs and lungs were screaming at me to rack the bar, but I had people rooting for me, I did one rep at a time, sometimes two :) sometimes I had to just catch my breath but I DID IT - 155 for 20 reps!
Lets recap I am 43 years old, 5'3", I weight around 120 lbs (not really sure I don't weight myself), I am not an athlete, I am not a trainer, I injured my back, but I persisted and made great progress. I started this article explaining how I almost put myself in kidney failure just by sitting down and standing up in a chair repetitively, but I recenlty just completed 155 lbs back squat for x 20 reps in 4 weeks. Now, I start 5x5 and am excited to see what it brings. I'm sure you get this, but the squats are simply an analogy for anything you want to achieve. Set your mind, drown out the negativity, push forward.
Thanks for listening,