The Small Changes Challenge…Week 12

This is the LAST POST of our Small Changes Challenge!

This challenge was all about setting you up to succeed.  Small, little changes help develop habits that will last a lifetime…and this was designed to do just that.  This isn’t the quick fix or the miracle pill that will make you lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks.  This isn’t the miracle food that will speed up your metabolism so pounds just fall off.  This is the REAL stuff that will give you REAL results.

small changes coverLet’s review the last few weeks and see what the individual challenges were…and if you are just starting The Small Changes Challenge…you can start here!  We will finish up with the final week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where to go with this last week.  What direction to finish this challenge so you have to actually change something…possibly…but so you actually have an awareness as well.

Week 12:  Strength Training is Amazing and it is time we make this a priority.

I was once very scared of the area of the gym, particularly where the guys seemed to hang out.  Very few women ever entered the “man gym” or in other words…the free weights section.  I didn’t understand why people would use a weight in their workout because…seriously…that dumbbell does not tell you how many calories you are burning.  The treadmill and elliptical…I know how much I am burning while I am moving my legs.  Or so I thought.

Torching calories used to be my mindset…and that was my goal for being at the gym.  I thought that was how this fitness stuff all worked.  Cardio, cardio.  I hated being on that treadmill but it seemed to be what all the other women were doing so it had to be right.  I was like a sheep and just followed along.  I used to hit that incline button on the treadmill and pretend to walk up that mountain…because that seemed to torch the calories.  I thought that this was the key to getting skinnier.  I was on that revolving floor sometimes for over an hour!  I got frustrated that I wasn’t getting the results I thought I should have from all that time I spent.

I later learned that relying on those “calorie burned numbers” really wasn’t the way to go and that I could burn more calories during the day by strength training rather than spend an hour or so on the treadmill or elliptical.  There are so many benefits to strength training that we will talk about in a bit too.  One of my big ah-ha moments though was when I found out that the numbers displayed on the screen of the machines I was using wasn’t accurate.  I would punch in all my info and sometimes used that heart rate monitor…I mean, even my weight was punched in there!…and yet the number on the screen tends to be higher than the actual number of calories burned.  Bummer, huh?  ABC News did a study about the accuracy of exercise machines…and you can find that in this link.

The real reason I started to strength train wasn’t because I had full confidence in what I was doing and was ready to pick those weights up and start doing lunges and push presses to my hearts desire.  I didn’t have that knowledge of how to do everything in the gym either and really had zero confidence…and in fact, I didn’t even know what most of the equipment in the gym was called other than a treadmill.  My reason to strength train…I HAD to.

1230062_368127896653274_1415184404_nWhen I was at the point of crawling up my stairs…my body was telling me that it was not strong enough to hold this structure of a human being.  It was done.  My muscles were weak.  My muscles in some areas had not been “used” in quite some time and others were stretched out so far that I thought we were at the point of no return.  The exercises I did with my physical therapist were ones that I could do at home…but something happened after a few weeks of working on these every day.  I got stronger.  The moves I was doing at home were working but not as great.  The reason?  My hips got stronger and were starting to function again…and in a way that I like to think…in sortof an inhuman way.  🙂  (I know it isn’t…so no hate comments!)  See…my hips still have weak points and spots that get triggered as I sit certain ways…but my muscles around those hips are strong.  Stronger than I ever thought was possible…that kind of strong.  When I started doing the hip abduction and hip adduction machines at the gym that mimicked an at home exercise I was doing…I was lifting about 40 pounds and it was HARD!  That was all I could do.  I had to use these machines though because I wasn’t able to do these at home any more…they just weren’t working and I needed more weight to push and pull  Today I am up to 230 pounds on one of the machines…and that is almost a 200 pound difference…and some days that amount feels easy.

I share this story, not to say “Oh, I can do ___” but to show you that you truly are capable of doing much more than you might think is possible.  My rock bottom day was when I was crawling…up stairs…and today I can deadlift my weight, do barbell glute hip thrusts up to 225 lbs and other amazing things that I had no knowledge about 3 years ago.

Strength training takes work, causes some soreness sometimes (ok…more than sometimes 😉 and might make you smell a bit if you forgot your deodorant…but the benefits are just awesome.  Here are just a few reasons why you should strength train:

purseWhen I say strength training…I define it as a way to make my body stronger overall.  For me personally, I like lifting heavy but when I started I was just using bodyweight or the lighter dumbbells.  Pretty sure my first deadlift was with 10 or 15 pound weights in my hands…I know for sure that it wasn’t a barbell with weights on it.  I would have broken something if I tried that.  I do try to think of what I do on a day to day basis though…and challenge myself that way.  Can I lift a child and pick them up over and over as a mom?  Yes.  Then I can do bicep curls, push presses, lateral raises, chest presses…or some degree of those with weight also.  Do I carry bags of groceries in and see if I can get all of the bags in one trip?  Yes.  That is called a farmers walk and women…we do this all.the.time!  See…you lift things a lot and if you can do average, everyday things…you can lift weights.  Think of your purse, diaper bags and the items that you carry for work.  Those can get really heavy.  Go weight those items and see how much weight you are already lifting daily…and when you workout…challenge yourself and lift more than that.

Last week I was working on bicep curls with women in a strength training class that I was teaching.  I tried to help them mentally think about what they lift on a daily basis and so I said, “If your purse weights more than the weight in your hand right now…you already know you can lift more so it might be time to grab a heavier weight.”  One women said, “I don’t carry a purse.”  Well…good for you.  I don’t either.  Doesn’t mean that you can use that answer as an excuse not to try something more challenging.  Pretty sure you do carry other things though during the day and you move your arms at some point in some way to help you through your day.  Smart butt responses tick me off sometimes…and I have smart butt answers that I could say right back.  I couldn’t say it in class but that was what I wanted to say.  🙂

Here are a few tips as you are venturing into this world of strength training:

  • Focus on what you CAN do.  I have to adapt what I do based on what my body can and can’t do.  Example…if I run more than 2 miles I tend to have issues with my hips.  Running isn’t the best option for me but I CAN ride a bike or lift weights and move my body in different ways at the same time and it is a great cardio exercise too.
  • Have fun!  When I was in boxing class…going into the ring was just an experience that I can’t describe…but was one that I wanted to do over and over.  I had so much fun being there and feeling my adrenaline pumping…I craved our classes each week and was so excited to go back.  I like specific things and favor boxing, cycling and lifting heavy stuff over doing 20 bicep curls with a light dumbbell.  The light stuff is just not fun for me.  I like what I like and I do what I think is fun…and you should do the same.  Yes, I do sneak in some lunges every now and then and some other exercises that I don’t tend to smile about but I do those because I know that they are important.  If those are on my to-do for the day, I make sure that I have something that I really like to do too…and I finish the yucky stuff first and then attack my fun things.
  • Track your progress and keep improving!  This is probably a bigger thing than most people realize…and as I have conversations with women it is something that only a handful tend to understand.  There are reasons why people walk around a gym with a notebook and write things down.  Some are following specific programs that tell them what to do…others are doing their own thing and looking for specific results in areas they are working on…and some are just copying the rest because they think it must be an important thing to do.  😉  The reason to track is mostly for 2 reasons.  1)  You won’t remember what you did.  Seriously.  You just won’t.  All those numbers get mixed together and you won’t know if you did 10 reps with 50 pounds on the lateral pulldowns with an overhand grip or a wide grip lateral pulldown with 45 pounds and 10 reps.  I mean…it can just get confusing.  2)  In order to continue to make progress…you have to know what you have done.  The rumor is this…(and this is a secret…shhh) your body needs things to be switched up every now and then.  It starts to figure out what you are doing and will anticipate those movements and exercises.  The effectiveness that you can have from your workout could actually diminish as time goes on if you continue to do the same stuff.  For me, I change things up about every 2 weeks.  Somewhere between 2 to 4 weeks (depends on the resource that you find) you need to make your body guess what it is doing.  Here is an example of how to change things up…Let’s say you do one of the free workouts at The Journey for 2 weeks.  You are rockin’ those workouts and are feeling awesome!  After about 2 weeks…you need to either increase weights, go faster, decrease the amount of rest time or add different exercises into your routine.  You don’t need to make it complicated but you do need to mix it up.  When you are done…write it down.  😉
  • plank-challengeSurround Yourself With Resources!  There are great resources…and not-so-great.  We all know this.  The part where things get complicated is where there are things that appear to be great resources but they become more of a sales pitch.   We have also been introduced to the realm of pinning things and I have found that a lot of pins on your bulletin boards are actually exercises that will make you feel more like a failure…because you either don’t look like the person in the example with the 6 pack abs or you are at the beginner level and the exercise claims to be beginner but let’s be honest…it isn’t.  No real beginner out there is going to plank for 320 seconds by the end of a month.   Goodness gracious.  I tried this challenge and failed…and actually got hurt because it was too much too fast.  Be careful out there.  People can write whatever they want.  Anyone can be a coach (really…they can…and that should scare you).  You though…you have the power to determine what it is that you will read and soak in for knowledge.  Here are a few resources that I use and recommend:  Girls Gone Strong, Mark Lauren, Bret Contreras, Rachel Cosgrove,  and Nia Shanks.

For the challenge this week...I encourage you to get at least 3 days of strength training that is at least 20 minutes long and try one new strength training exercise that is either with your bodyweight or with weights.  Pick your own workout, try one of ours from The Journey, start the 14 Day Bodyweight Challenge that we created, find some exercises that you really enjoy or do a workout that you have at home that involves strength training…and then just do it!

Remember to write down what you did for your exercises.  You can even include things in your notes about how you felt, what your body felt like, if it felt easy or if your muscles were screaming at you to stop.  We have included a blank tracking form for you here that you can use and print off as often as you like.  workout tracking sheets  There is a blank line to write down your exercise and then spots after to record what you did.  Here are a few examples…

  • Push-ups   Bodyweight (bw)/10
  • Bicep Curls  8lbs (each hand)/10

images (25)Womenit is time to take over the free weights…use machines that say real weights on them and not just a 1 to 10 number on the weight portion of the machine.  Educate yourself on what your are doing and gain confidence in who you are and what you can accomplish…and pick that weight up off the floor.

Can I just take a moment and say…those who have kept plugging away at these challenges, sending e-mails, working on making these small changes…have been awesome!  You know who else is awesome?  Those of you who started and didn’t quite finish.  You tried…and I know at some point in the future you will try again.  And…the last group…those who are thinking about starting this challenge…YOU CAN DO THIS!  and it will be a great step towards a healthier lifestyle.

Thanks for being part of The Journey!  If you have questions about strength training…please feel free to send us a message at



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