Do you even lift? Weight training program review

My first foray into blogging was a Body for Life / fitness themed blog in the early 2000s. At that time, heavy lifting was popular. One of my goals for 2023 is to improve fitness by completing a heavy lifting training program. We still own the Body for Life book as well as another favorite, the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I opted for Body for Life because the program is simpler. The workouts are consistent and the diet component follows a standard formula. The “authorized food list” for the program is similar to how I currently eat.

I’m currently striving to reject diet culture and adopt a body positive mindset. So, I am cautious about engaging in a plan. As a result, I am not strict with the diet aspect. Particularly, I eat more fats (usually healthy fats) than the Body for Life plan “allows.” My goals for the 12 week program focused on building strength and automating meal planning. Reducing body fat would be nice, as would be losing a few pounds, but those are not my primary objectives.

Although I don’t intend to turn this into a fitness blog, I wanted to briefly review my experience with the program. As of this posting, I am entering the twelfth and week. I have completed every single scheduled workout. Unsurprisingly, my eating has not followed the plan.

Body for Life requires six meals each day with a portion of carbohydrate and a portion of protein. In the first few weeks, I made an effort to try out the plan. It was so much protein and a lot of eating. Overall, I didn’t feel great. I reverted to something more like my regular eating habits and felt better.  

The workouts consist of 20 minutes of cardio intervals, three times per week. On alternate days, there is a lifting session three times per week. The lifting workout varies between a lower and upper body focus. Because I’m currently maintaining a run streak (day 173 and counting!). I run one mile as a warmup before the lifting workouts and on the weekly free day. I opt for running as my workout for the cardio days. 

Historically, weight lifting is challenging for me. I prefer cardio and often find lifting to be tedious. This round was no exception in the beginning. But after completing the first few weeks, I started to feel stronger. I’m making good use of my gym membership, too. The lifting workouts became more rewarding and enjoyable. The lifting days do require a long workout (40-45 minutes plus the warmup run), which can be difficult.

Meal planning and grocery shopping started out fine. It is easier to cook dinner and eat on a schedule when I’ve planned something in advance. I found a delicious chicken marinade. This marinade makes skinless boneless chicken breast very tasty. It includes “off-plan” ingredients. Considering my lax approach to the diet and desire to avoid obsessing about what I eat, I’m completely okay with tastier chicken that doesn’t strictly conform to the plan. We’ve had grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli, as well as on top of salads. It is an easy item to meal prep when we need a quick dinner. The grilled chicken, and prepping extra for easy future meals, has been the best result from the diet plan. I brought cottage cheese back to my shopping list. But, I was not able to establish a meal planning habit. Perhaps a future goal. 

Here is the chicken marinade recipe that I’m using:

⅓ C olive oil

3T lemon juice

2T balsamic vinegar

2T lower sodium soy sauce

1T dijon mustard

1-½ t Kosher salt

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

1 t paprika

1 t dried thyme leaves

½ t crushed red pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Pound chicken breast to the same thickness. Place in a gallon size freezer bag, pour marinade over chicken. In my last batch, I split the marinade into two bags, each with 3 large pieces of chicken. Marinate for up to 12 hours in the refrigerator, then cook as desired. We have tried a pellet fueled grill, stovetop in a cast iron pan, and baked. The pellet grill is our favorite, followed by baking (we sear then finish in the oven). 

How about the results? My body did not have a dramatic transformation. My weight has fluctuated in the same 2-3 pound range since beginning the program. I didn’t measure body fat so there is likely some fat loss / change in body composition. My posture has improved and I am stronger. The log shows that I can lift more weight today than I could when I started 12 weeks ago. My AppleWatch fitness metrics like VO2 max and move calories are trending upward. Body measurements reflect a total loss of about two inches. The interval workouts have improved my running pace. I raced a 5k this month and shaved two minutes from a race last September (and came within 15 seconds of breaking a five year old personal record). 

Ultimately, I’m glad I revisited this plan. I am proud of sticking with the workouts and hitting every single one, even when it was tedious. The diet plan was not for me and I don’t regret abandoning it. I picked up a new recipe and a couple of new insights, that’s enough. We’ll keep experimenting with our diet. In the meantime, I want to stick with regular weight lifting. When this program completes, my fitness will shift in July to half marathon training for a fall race. Strength training will feature at least twice per week.

What fitness programs have you tried? What works for you and what doesn’t? Do you like reading about my endeavors to find a healthy balance? Let me know in the comments.  

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