Monday, August 7, 2017

Starting Strength, the housewife review

Nothing makes me feel quite like a fat, tired, old hausfrau as looking at weightlifting & bodybuilding forums. For one thing, I can and do use correct spelling and grammar instead of "GAINZZZ!" For another, I fully recognize that it's taken me years to get into this shape, and it's going take time to get better - I'm not particularly concerned about my ABZZ, because I haven't seen them since I was 18, anyway.

Nor am I particularly impressed with the amount of noise I can make when dropping the weights, or the ability to motivate one's self or others through aggressive, crude posturing and mouthing off. (Really, boys. After you've heard Gunny Kowalski in a particularly vile mood while fixing his car, that's just infantile, unimaginitive, and repetitive.)

And I am not at all enamored of potions, lotions, pills, and powders that promise in highest pseudo-scientific commentary to deliver the same thing as Charles Atlas, without the work. I'm a woman of a certain age. Not only have I heard all that before with a slightly different spin from the cosmetic companies for decades, but I'm already taking enough potions, lotions, pills and powders that come with copays and scheduled checkups attached.

So, it may seem completely counter-intuitive that I started weightlifting with a Starting Strength coach - but it's actually been exactly what I needed, and delightfully free of  bushwa.

Starting Strength has a very simple, basic premise: you're there to get stronger, and you'll do that by lifting weights. They'll teach you how, and why, and what it does for you - as long as you put in the effort to do it.

And am I ever learning. When my darling man and I walked in to eyeball the gym and get a gut-feel for the people running it and coaching, they politely mandated we read the textbook before our first session (Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training), and then gave us a second textbook for supplemental reading (The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40).

My eighteen year old self would likely have shirked the reading, and made faces about textbooks outside of college. These days, I'm a little wiser... although, having never lifted before, a lot of the references in the manual were really hard going because I had no context. The first month has been full of "Ah, so that's what that means."

The coach was also most firm that we're going to perfect form before we add weight, a practice that I wholeheartedly agree with. (I've been in physical therapy enough times I know this drill; doing something wrong with lots of force = lots of pain and injury.) Enthusiasm without form leads to injury, and I don't have enough joint tissue left for that nonsense now.

And they deliver on results!. Now, being a rather broken and fat old woman who keeps a cane in the car for bad days, they didn't start me on weight right away - rather, I got to start with leg presses to build up enough strength to do squats. And Lat pulldowns to build enough strength for an overhead press. Even bench presses, I started with a 10-pound bar that was very clearly a 3/4" ID pipe cut to length, with stripes painted where the knurls are on real weightlifting bars. (I spent a few moments trying to remember if this was Schedule 40 or Schedule 80 pipe.)

But a month in, with three workouts of roughly half an hour each per week, I am now deadlifting 45 pounds, bench pressing 50, overhead pressing 35, and squatting 65 pounds.

The numbers on the exercises, though, are less important than the benchmarks in day to day life: I can once again put glasses away on the high cupboard shelf, and take down the pyrex jugs. My knees don't hurt as much all the time, and when I do things, they hurt less than they used to. I can now mow the front lawn and most of the back lawn, too, where before it was definitely one each per day. Oh, and my jeans are looser. Not dropping sizes yet, but it's a possibility in the future if this goes on!


  1. It takes a lot of determination to do what you're doing. Well done!

  2. Sounds good. I am vast, I contain multitu-- alright, I'm fat. But it seems the Secret to Life is: Keep moving. And that, you are doing. Congratulations.

  3. Motivation and doing the real work, that is what BOTH of you are doing, and it's paying off!

  4. Should that not be 3/4" OD pipe cut to length?

  5. You'd think OD not ID, right? But the OD is just a little over an inch, not a sensible fraction, while the ID is right on 3/4 inch.

    Once upon a time, I had to inventory the plumbing parts rack for an international airport. Keeping ID and OD parts separate was one of the bigger headaches known to inventory - and that's before you get into "So you need more 1/2" stopcocks. Is that in cooper, steel, or cast iron? 1/2in ID or OD? Threaded or not? Male or female ends on each end?"

  6. I'm looking forward to some strength training when we move to our (not yet chosen) retirement community - especially lower back, for walking better. Surgeons want to operate - I said no way, but I need to do the exercises, and for that I need trainers who understand old people. PT has been a joke.

    Sounds like you're doing more than well. Thanks for being a good role model.