Learning to Adapt

On March 6, 2011, I reached my goal weight. Actually, I weighed in two pounds below my goal (128). I was thrilled and reveled in this for a while. I went shopping and bought stylish (and expensive) clothes and continued to work out in the same way as I had worked out for the past year. However, before too long I realized that losing all that weight had sort of left me stretched out. At 52, it was unlikely that the skin was going to snap back and fit my new svelte body.

In my year at the gym, I met another woman who had also been losing a significant amount of weight but had taken it in a different direction. She was training to compete as a bodybuilder. As an aside, she continues to motivate me on a regular basis and has been a source of strength to me in difficult times. I thought about her training and goals and then remembered reading a magazine called Oxygen a few months ago. At the time, I recall thinking that it was nice; however, I would never go that route. I just wanted to be skinny. So I continued to work out and think about the issue. I talked to the trainer and began to realize that lifting heavier weights and strengthening my muscles was not going to make me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (another person with bicuspid aortic valve) and decided that lifting weights and building muscle would be the best way to “fill up” that skin.

So, I changed my training in April or May and started lifting heavier (i.e. not just 5 pound dumbbells) weights and focusing more on strength training. I dropped my cardio down to 30 minutes per workout and continued work out four days per week. My workouts came from online sources, suggestions I picked up in magazines, and my bodybuilder friend. I found my strength improving steadily.

Of course, I also adjusted my diet. I was no longer maintaining a calorie deficit. Instead, I was aiming to break even each day. I increased my protein intake and decreased carbs a little. (Future posts will include things I have learned along the way about how this process works for me). The one thing that was most difficult for me and with which I still struggle is that the scale started to inch up. I was still wearing the same size in clothing, but by the end of the summer, I was a full 10 pounds higher. Because weighing in every day works best for me, I would weigh in each day and grimace when I read the number. Then I would put on my clothes and feel perplexed that they still fit.

Nevertheless, I continued my workouts and was thrilled to see a four-pack developing nicely along with some little muscles in other areas. And then in August 2011, I hit a roadblock. I was doing standing calf raises with 270lbs. It did not feel like too much at the time, but it ended up being the wrong machine for my body and much more weight than I could handle. I did not realize my rib had been broken until several months later. I just know that it hurt terribly.

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