Thursday, 30 October 2014

Stage 1 of NROLFW Done!

I’m actually pretty proud I can say that I have completed the first stage of the New Rules of Lifting for Women program.  It’s been really great to have a workout focus to keep me working towards a goal, especially while I haven’t been running.  It’s definitely been energising and motivating to get up and go to the gym early in the morning, to see how much more I can lift in that workout compared to the last.

This is a bit wordy - sorry!  But I really wanted to share my thoughts, rather than just results.  Hope you find it useful!  And let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like me to answer.

Some thoughts on the NROLFW book

Firstly I will say that the first section of the book is all about selling the program and why Lou Schuler believes this is the best way for women to train.  I learnt a lot about our muscles consisting of two different types, and why it pays to work the fast twitch muscles through strength training, as well as the slow twitch muscles through cardio type exercise.

He does suggest that you don’t need to do any cardio (and in fact shouldn’t), but as always I’ve approached this as more of an information gathering exercise, rather than a rule book to follow.  In the end, I think that you should do whatever exercise motivates you to get off the couch, because that is better than doing nothing.  I still think I enjoy running most, so I will still run!

There is also a whole section on nutrition and food, which again is a great source of information, but you have to find what works for you.  I’ve taken some of the concepts such as refuelling your muscles soon after you finish your workout (I try to have my protein shake within an hour of my workout), but as you know I’ve chosen to do the Lite’n’Easy meal plans at the moment, so I’m not following his nutrition guidelines specifically.

I also really appreciated the very detailed sections on the program workouts, and the exercises used in each workout.  There are step by step written instructions as well as pictures, and I have referred back to these a number of times.  I especially wanted to make sure I was performing the exercises in the right way to get the most benefits.  Deadlifts were one exercise I was checking, as well as the swissball crunches (which I still am not really feeling much in my abs, but I can’t see what I should be doing differently).

Stage 1 Overview

To give you a bit of an overview of the program, the first stage is designed to break you into the routine, and was a total of 18 workouts.  There were two alternating workouts A and B which were completed 8 times each, as well as one additional time each to compare your performance of the weight you used in the very first workouts, to what you can achieve by the end of the program.  I really liked this concept to get a feel for how far I’ve come in the 6 weeks or so.

There was a progression in the number of sets for each exercise in each workout, with a complementary decrease in the number of reps per set.  So I started with 2 sets of 15 reps, and ended up with 3 sets of 8 reps.  There were also super sets, ie I alternated between pushups and seated rows.  There was also a rest period of 60 seconds between each set (I used my Gear Fit to time this).

Stage 1 results

Workout A
AMRAP (starting weight)
30 degree
full & side twist
Seated rows
Step ups (dumbbells)
Body weight
2 x 10kg
50 (each leg)
Prone jackknife
Body weight
Body weight

Workout B

Shoulder press (dumbbells)
Lat Pulldown
Lunges (dumbbells / kettlebells)
2 x 8kg
2 x 16kg
30 (each leg)
Swissball crunches (plate)
Body weight

I’m pretty happy with these results!  I definitely increased how much weight I was lifting, and feel like I can go further.  And the AMRAP exercise shows how far I’ve come in just 6 weeks.

How do I feel after Stage 1?

I was doing some weights routines before starting this program, so I wasn’t a total beginner, but I definitely feel stronger than I did before I started NROLFW.  I feel like I have more muscle and definition in my arms, but I’m actually most surprised by how much stronger my legs feel after all the lunges and step ups.  At the time of doing them, I may have done a fair bit of under the breath cursing, but I have to give them credit – they are effective!

I have obviously been doing NROLFW as well as Lite’n’Easy for at least the last couple of weeks, so it’s a bit hard to know if my weight / shape is being affected more by one than the other.  However, I have found that in terms of losing body fat, I personally respond more to dietary changes, so I’ll suggest it’s the Lite’n’Easy which is (hopefully!) stripping body fat.  However, I also feel that the NROLFW is giving me more muscle which in combination should give me a more toned shape.  Also, the extra walking of Angus is probably doing me some good in terms of calorie burning, and maybe even recovery – it feels nice to stretch my legs after a tough weights session in the morning.

I do actually think that it was only really towards the end of this first stage that I was finding my strength training groove.  By that I mean I was better able to gauge where my strength limits are, how far I can push myself, and what my strengths and weaknesses are.  Although I am making progress with things like pushups, I still struggle with most upper body work.  I was also pleasantly surprised how much overall body change has occurred with doing only really 10 large muscle exercises.  It makes me believe that we don’t really need to focus on smaller muscles when we do more full body exercises, because they still get used to some degree.  No more bicep curls for me!

Next steps / stage

I’m definitely looking forward to moving on to Stage 2!  After a week of rest from weight training, it’s a shorter stage (about 4 weeks), and I’m looking forward to mixing up the exercises in my workouts – it’s just time for a change before I get bored.  There is also some treadmill interval training, which I’m excited about!  Bring it on!

Do you enjoy lifting weights? What’s your favourite exercise? Why?

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