Monday, September 3, 2012

Holiday Weekends Rule & Shortcut to Size – Phase 1 Reflections

Wow, what a great weekend! 
Saturday night was date night at Renzo’s – this Tropical Mango Salad was amazing, as usual.
Sunday morning I met up with Maria to accompany her on her brick workout.  It was my first 20 mile run since before the Fargo Marathon; we did the first 14 miles outside on Bayshore and Davis Island, went into the gym and biked for 30 minutes before hopping on the treadmill to finish the last 6.  Despite the fact that I haven’t run that far since May, I was confident in my ability to cover the distance, although I wasn’t sure how quick it would be. I was pleasantly surprised when we maintained an 8:10 pace outside and finished the 6 treadmill miles under 8 min/mile. I’m really getting antsy for race season to start so that I can get a better feel of where I am in terms of being marathon ready. After stuffing my face with oatmeal and egg whites at brunch, cookies were made.
cookies 3
These two looked on longingly.  Their cuteness was rewarded with a few peanut butter chips; who could resist those sweet faces??
puggies! And today was the best day of all….I spent a few relaxing hours at Pass-a-Grille Beach with the husband.
And then ate my favorite fish, grouper, at Sea Critters Cafe. It was so yummy.  There was not a single speck of fish left on that plate when I was done.
Returning to real life tomorrow morning is going to be rough.  And speaking of real life, let’s talk about how I’ve spent my last four weeks in the gym.
Last Thursday marked my completion of Phase 1 of’s Shortcut to Size strength training program. For a complete description of the program, go here.  In a nutshell, the plan consists of three phases, each of which is made up of four one-week microcycles. Week one starts with low weight and high reps; each week the weight increases and the reps decrease, with week four being very heavy weight for very few reps.  Additionally, the last set of every exercise is followed by a rest-pause set for weeks 1 & 2 or a drop set for weeks 3 & 4.  The program also includes a nutrition plan, but I chose to ignore that portion and stick to my regular eats.
Things I Loved:
  1. All body parts are hit in four days of training.
  2. Nearly all of the exercises are relatively standard weight training exercises, so I didn’t need to constantly refer to my phone in the middle of my workout to figure out what I should be doing.
  3. The variation in some of the exercises as well as decrease in the rep ranges kept the workouts from feeling stale.
  4. The challenge of increasing the weight I was lifting each week kept me motivated to push hard.
  5. I had a love/hate relationship with repping to failure on the last set of every exercise.  It was definitely not pleasant in the moment, but it kept my heart rate more elevated than my normal strength training, and it made me hurt in that “I totally killed it at the gym today” kind of way that I love.
Things I Didn’t Love:
  1. Weeks 1 and 2 are very time consuming. It takes a substantial block of time to complete 15 reps of 3 – 4 sets + a rest-pause set of 9 different exercises.  When I added on the running that I needed to get in, I was sometimes spending over 2 hours in the gym.
  2. Other than some of the abs exercises, I haven’t done a single body weight exercise in a month.  I never thought I’d say this, but I miss doing good old pushups and pullups!
Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to take measurements before I started Phase 1, so I can’t give specific details about my progress in that regard.  I am going to take my measurements before starting on Phase 2 tomorrow so that I will be able to more carefully measure my progress. In terms of strength, however, I achieved new PRs on virtually all of the exercises in the plan.  It will be interesting to compare how the weights I am able to lift during Week 1 of Phase 2 compare to what I started with on Phase 1.
Overall, I have been a huge fan of the program.  I like having a purpose for each of my strength training sessions, and I felt like this was a well-rounded plan that hit my entire body. It’s also a hugely challenging program; I left the gym after every session feeling wiped out, and sometimes my muscles would hurt for 3 days after a workout.  It’s definitely created with the goal of putting on muscle (hence its name!), so if you’re only looking to maintain what you’ve already got, this is not the plan for you.

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