Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This week in books...

Just finished:
Forever: A Novel

Quick and dirty review: Historical fiction, set in New York City (I always think of that commercial when I say New York City), from the point of view of a man who lives forever but can't leave the boundaries of Manhattan.

Interesting fact: The author finished the book on Sept. 10, 2001.  The next day's events led to a significant rewrite of the end.  I'd be interested to read the original ending and see how it was supposed to go.

Verdict: Eh.  Interesting, but not gripping. 

Currently reading (training-related):

Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier

Because, of course, there's no better way to improve one's swimming than read a book about it, right? (rolls eyes)  The book was mentioned by one of the guys at the tri club swim a couple of weeks ago and jumped out at me while I was spending my Barnes & Noble gift card.  Review to come.
Currently reading (non-training related):
The Known World

A manly recommendation.  I'll let you know if his book recommendations are as good as mine when I finish it....which needs to be soon, because after finishing that online class I did this past week (4 months' work in 6 days.  Awesome.  When it was done.) I found out that I can do two more of them.  I need the credits, so I'm going to do it, but it means spending an awful lot of time at the computer and NO recreational reading.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book review: The New Rules of Lifting for Women

Back in January, I blogged about my goals for the year. Number 6 was "Go to the gym/strength workout 1x week."  That's not very often, but usually I do much better by setting low goals that are easily surpassed than by setting more ambitious goals and promptly failing them.  Even with setting the bar very low, though, I think I made it to the gym about 8 times between January and May, and all of those were to use the treadmill. I was on track to completely failing my strength training goal.

Before, any strength training I did was just aimlessly using the Nautilus machines at the gym.  I didn't really know what to do or have money for a personal trainer, and those seemed pretty idiot-proof. Then, I was reading a friend's blog following his family's progress in training for a marathon and in response to one of my comments, he suggested I check out The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I trust his advice, so I ordered the book, and I'm so glad I did.  I'm one of those people who does better with a plan--somebody else's plan that I can just follow.  For me, this book is that plan.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess
The full title is The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess.  That sounds pretty good to me.  It basically has three parts:
  • Dispelling the myth that if you lift heavy weights you'll end up looking like a musclebound man and building a case for lifting heavier free weights.
  • Rationale behind fueling for muscle building (hint: you'll probably eat more)
  • Detailed strength training plan
  • "Diet" plan (I put "diet" in quotation marks because it isn't a diet as we typically think of the word)
I've read the book all of the way through once, most of the way through again, and I continually refer back to it.  I've bought into the program, for sure.  I like the way that he built evidence for the type of exercise and for the way that you should be eating.  I love the strength training.  I need something very detailed.  Do this, this is how.  Next, do this and this.  That's just how the book is set up.  It focuses strongly on free weights and calls for strength workouts 2-3 times a week. Other than one week where I only got in two workouts because my shoulder was sore from volleyball, I've been consistently at the gym 3x week for the past month or so. 

The one part I don't love is the chapter on the diet plan.  It has charts to help you figure out how many calories you should be eating (for a lot of women, probably more than you think), information on the amount of protein you should be eating (for me, WAY more than I typically eat...this has been a real challenge), and some sample recipes.  Remember how I said I need specifics?  This isn't specific enough for me.  Now, that's mostly my failing rather than the book's.  For someone who doesn't need their information spoon-fed to them, it would probably be sufficient.

Like I said, I've been consistently following the strength plan for a few weeks.  I haven't yet seen much difference on my body, but I'm definitely seeing an improvement in the amount of weight that I can lift.  For example, I started out doing squats with just the 45 pound bar, and now I'm up to 105 pounds (on purpose...I did do two sets of 115 pounds because of a math error, but that was pretty uncomfortable.  By the end of the week, though, I should be back to 115 for real).   It's quite a process...there are a total of 7 stages--18 total workouts in the first stage, and then between 8-10 workouts in the subsequent stages. (If you buy the book, do a google search of the title and you'll find several websites where people have made up training logs.  You'll have to have some info from the book in order to access the logs, but they're pretty handy.)

I've started following the eating part a little bit, and I'm planning to really look at what I'm eating a little better so that I'm full-on "on the plan".  Then, when I'm finished with all of the stages, I'll show you my progress. I have some atrocious pictures of me in my shorts and sports bra to serve as "before" pictures.  Hopefully I have some thin good after pictures so that I can show them side by side when I'm finished with the program.  Stay tuned...