If you follow me on Instagram you might see my morning selfies and captions about my workout of the day. Right about this time one year ago I decided to change the way I ate and got serious about working out. You can read why I got started here and a three month update here. Looking back, this has been very pandemic-inspired. For all the days at home and missed gatherings and socializing, the outlet of physical fitness has been a beacon of light and energy, particularly over the winter months. Today I wanted to give you an update after 12 months of consistent working out and 12 months of tracking macros.
I did not own a scale until last summer, and I highly recommend not owning one. However, I decided to buy one when I embarked on a 30 day fitness challenge so I could gauge any scale-related results. Now I use it as a tool to ensure I am hitting the right nutrition goals. Since I started weighing myself (about three months into my fitness journey) the scale has changed by about 7ish pounds for me. But my body has changed a whole lot. I have leaned out in my stomach, hips, upper arms, and upper thighs and I've added muscle to my glutes, quads, hamstrings and a little bit to my biceps and triceps. I have moved down a pant size, and fit comfortably in that new size. The biggest change for me has been adding a little bit of shape to my naturally very straight legs.
My Biggest Non-Physical Changes
Overall, I feel STRONG and CAPABLE. I love the feeling of knowing I can lift heavy things, grocery bags, furniture, soccer equipment, ice chests, you name it. I like knowing if I ever had to physically fight for my life, I am a lot stronger than someone might think I am. It gives me a small slice of peace of mind.
Since implementing early morning workouts a year ago, I have gained confidence in knowing my way around a barbell AND in so many other areas of my life. Knowing I have the discipline to get up early and workout gives me the confidence to know I can tackle other goals I set for myself. It makes me feel like a force to be reckoned with.
I also feel a lot more comfortable in my skin, which makes me think about my body wayyy less, and I really like that. It feels like my mind is more freed up to contemplate other things: my family, neighbors, friends, work, etc.
Over the last year my workout routine has taken an interesting turn. I've shifted more away from cardio-based exercise and more toward weight training. The biggest reason: I am enjoying it. And that helps me make it a priority. If you love it, it's so much easier to make it a habit.
I spent most of last summer and fall doing Madeline Moves workouts, which I still love! But I left her program in favor of a more weight-training based program on the Transform App. I wanted less cardio and more weights. I have the goal of increasing muscle and excess cardio does not help this goal. (Side note: You can try the Transform App for free for a week. I am an affiliate with them, and you can use my code to save 10% -> hartman10. I am doing the Iron Gym level 2 plan using my garage gym set up.)
I currently lift 4x per week with the app and do a plyometric/movement based workout (often an older MM workout!) 1x per week. Right now, I find that I get the most enjoyment and the most body composition changes from pushing and lifting heavy weights. I never, ever thought I would be a person who prefers iron over an elliptical, but here I am, and I've never looked forward to my daily workouts until now.
A big reason I like lifting is that it offers you the chance to build something (muscle) and cardio feels a bit like a one off to me. I suppose you could count building endurance, but I am not a runner or super into cardio so I prefer the weights. Lifting big, heavy weights offers me a bit of a thrill that I really enjoy.
I used to be afraid of weights because I thought I'd get bulky. But I didn't realize how hard it would actually be to bulk up and gain muscle until I tried to do it. To build bigger muscles you have to be in a near constant calorie surplus. Lifting weights at maintenance calories usually means slow body recomposition (fat reduction, and a little bit of muscle building). I realized, if getting bulky was a concern, it is a nutrition-related issue not a weight-lifting one. Additionally, I used to always think thinner = better, but now I definitely prefer the look of muscles over skinny.
The Gear I Added
We've added two major pieces of equipment in the last year: a barbell and weight plates and a squat rack. It took me a long time to figure out what kind of barbell to get, and in the end we got an Olympic style, which is full-sized at 45 pounds. We found ours at Dick's. My husband was the one who researched the squat rack, and we went with this one because it had good reviews. We've been very happy with both purchases! I also upgraded my tension bands to a set that allowed stacking capabilities and purchased pull up assist bands.
My Fitness Goals Right Now
My underlying goal is always to build more muscle. I love the shape of the human form and I think defined muscles are amazing, on men and women. I definitely want to build more, but I am not interested in entering a bulk phase, so I'm currently eating at maintenance for the foreseeable future to see what my body can do there. (More on that below.) I may try a long term bulk next winter, but we will see.
Finding the Time and Motivation
A few of you asked me about how I stay motivated and how I find time to work out. For me it all comes down to habit. I've carved out my early mornings for exercise and I've found that's the time that works best for me. I am a night owl to the core, but I've come to love the early mornings because it's quiet and the kids are still asleep. My husband gets up and works out with me too, so it's really fun to have that together time before our days start in earnest. I drink this pre-workout every single morning, and that helps get me going. (For more early morning wake up tips read this post.)
Motivation is a tricky beast. Our motivation will 100% fail us, so our best bet is to take it out of the equation and rely on habit to keep us going. I workout every day because it's become a habit. In other words, it's not a question of if I will workout each morning, but rather what is my workout. I operate under the assumption that I will be doing it each day. For awhile I tried a MWF schedule and I ended up failing because it didn't create a habit. The on and off days left too much schedule changing and I would inevitably skip. Now, most weeks I work out M-F and take the weekends as full rest days.
Macros is such a long and complicated subject, but I find it worth the time to learn if you're interested in diving a little deeper into what you eat.
So far, my macro journey has included two, 30-day cuts with a reverse to bulk in between. This means after the first cut I reverse dieted (more on that here) all the way up to a bulk to try and add some muscle. After that bulk, I did a second 30 day cut and then reversed up to where I am now, eating about 2200 calories per day + one free meal per week. My macros are approximately: 140 g protein, 275 g carbs, 60 g fat. Many days my fat or protein is a little higher so I adjust with fewer carbs.
I eat a lot of the same foods and I am pretty content with that because I love them. I do have a lot of seasonal shifts in my diet, aka more soups in the winter, more grilling in the summer. And of course I love, love the abundance of fresh produce in the warmer months. Some breakfast and snack staples for me include: steel cut oats and peanut butter, Orgain protein shakes with frozen banana, fresh eggs, any veggie in the air fryer, greek yogurt with graham crackers crumbled on top, Built Bars (coconut brownie is my fav!!) and Lillie Eats and Tells is a favorite source for recipes. I own both of her cookbooks and use them every week!
Tracking macros helps me eat more nutrient dense food. I love vegetables and this helps me prioritize them. I get plenty of protein each day which helps give me energy, and I love to load my carb category up with honeycrisp apples and air fried sweet potatoes. I've always loved food, and I love the food I eat now more than ever! And yes, I still eat junk and treats and beer and wine, but those are more in moderation now. And when I want them, I just fit them into my macros for the week.
My best fitness advice:
ONE - Figure out what kind of working out/exercise/training/moving your body you enjoy and do that because you're more likely to stick with it. I prefer programs, so there is a schedule. And I like more weights and less jumping.
TWO - If you're not getting the results you want from exercise alone, consider nutrition. You need to be in a calorie deficit to loose fat. You need to be in a calorie surplus (and lifting heavy weights) to build muscle.
THREE - Create a habit around exercise, do it the same time each day if you can. The more variables you eliminate, the easier it will be to stay consistent.
I feel like I could go on and on, on the topics of weight lifting, working out and eating, so feel free to pick my brain if you feel like I left anything out! Thank you so much for reading this very long post. :)
PS - For more on what I like to wear when I workout read this post.
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