Stronger Together


Pinkhairedchickenmama learning the trap bar with her new trainer.

What’s the funnest thing ever?  
Getting your bestie addicted to the thing you love and then nerding out with her on the phone or in person about it daily.

A magical synchrony has occurred between Pink and I.  We both hired trainers at the beginning of this year, within a few weeks of each other.  And what has happened is extremely accelerated progress for both of us.

She’s learning a lot about her lifting form, and about training nutrition, and about volume, and the accountability of having a set meeting with her guy has made her bend over backwards to get to the gym and to crave getting back every time she has a setback (influenza, pulled ligament in her foot, hip and back pain, a crushingly bad week at work, etc.).

For me, I just feel more invested.  Like if I am going to pay the trainer once a week and pull my training budget into the stratosphere from just merely ridiculous, I better show up fully for all of my workouts and try to make progress.  He’s also teaching me a bunch of assistance exercises to add to my big lifts.  The result is that the weight on the bar is adding up.

Pink and I are looking forward to our first meet in August or September, depending on what we’re able to register for.  And being able to geek out with each other about all the progress we are making just adds fuel to the fire.

I hit part of a goal that I set last year — to bench a full plate, or 135 lbs.  I still have to hit the 225lb squat and the 315lb deadlift that I’ve been working on.  The squat is at about 185 now, though it feels like I could do more, the deadlift at 285 and a little bit ugly.  Close, close, though.


My Big Fat DEXA Scan

After a bit of a delay, I managed to get into my local university´s nutrition center for a DEXA scan.  I had been burning quite a bit of mental energy around determining what my intentions were with said scan.

Things that are true:

I wanted to find out how much lean muscle mass I had and to work in the future to either preserve said mass or increase it:

I expected that I would have at least decent bone density and wanted to find out if that was true so that, as a perimenopausal woman, I could make sure that I was taking necessary interventions if I needed to.

Things that are bullshit:

Whatever my body fat percentage was, I was going to be ok with that.

I was absolutely not going to use that body fat percentage and the lean mass numbers as a jumping off point to try to change my body composition to lower the body fat and crank up the lean mass.

I was also not going to spend an obsessive amount of time calculating how many pounds I would have to lose to lower my body fat percentage 1%.  (Ahem, it´s about 4.5)


Things I expected:

I honestly thought that my lean body mass was going to be around 135-145lbs (out of my current weight of 270), giving me a body fat percentage of around 50%.  This was based on my lowest athletic weight of about 145 lbs (in high school) and estimated body fat percentage at that time (around 15%).  It was also based on me looking at pictures on the internet of women of different body fat percentages and determining the 50% body looked the most like mine.

I expected my bone density to be at least average.  I eat well, I have good vitamin D levels, I powerlift, I ran a marathon, I´ve been carrying a lot of weight on my frame for quite a bit.

I also expected the folks at the nutrition office to have a thin veil over their fat phobia and to gingerly dance around reporting my BMI of 40 and my body fat percentage.  I frankly expected to have to do a lot of work around convincing them that I´m mostly ok with where I am and that there are things to celebrate about my body and, in fact, I do balance my unhealthy lifestyle (staying up all night, stressing about life and death situations at work, too much coffee) with healthy things (low-sugar, high protein diet, lots of lifting and martial arts and rowing and walking and swimming).

The results:

Overall, I am super-glad I did this.  My tech was a dietician who was actually really, genuinely body positive and talking to her was a joy.  I was shocked to find out that my LBM is actually almost 160lbs.  And my feelings about that are very positive.  (I am weirdly ok with objective validation of the fact that I am fucking huge.) I feel athletic and strong.  I feel like all of my physical training is paying off.  I feel inspired to continue trying to maintain that LBM, even if I do try to lower my body fat.  41% body fat feels like a smaller number than I would have expected. I feel a feeling of balance around trying to reduce that body fat percentage and am pretty darn comfortable with just sitting with my feelings around trying to improve aesthetics, athletic performance, health, aches and pains, flexibility and range of motion.  It feels safe to look into making changes for any of these reasons without being self-hating or obsessive.  I feel more calm than I thought I would.

My bones are made of fucking concrete.  Or concrete and steel.  My bone density is off the chart for a perimenopausal woman.  It feels awesome to know that for the immediate future I can check off one of the worries about aging and focus more on my new liver spots and the fact that I can´t remember where I put my glasses.  (My T-score was 4.3 for all of you stat nerds).

I´m in a pretty big muscle-building phase with my training and plan to go back in 3-4 months and see if there are any changes.  For SCIENCE.

The two docs below are my scan documents.  The crappy scanning has removed some of the details from the charts and graphs, but you get the picture.

Doc Sep 19, 2017, 11:12

Doc Sep 19, 2017, 11:13

Back to Work: Where a Swim and a Sauna Becomes 150 Kettlebell Swings and Carb-Loading.

This post is going to be a little all over the place, just like me right now.

Part of my sanity-preservation as a solo-practice midwife in a high-service practice (read — I´m on call 24/7 and my phone rings and pings all day every day) is to take about 6-8 weeks off of call every summer so that I can rest, take a vacation or two, recharge, finally clean out all of my closets, and get my attitude on straight again.   For those of you not in small business this is otherwise known as two months unpaid leave. The last baby I delivered in my practice was on June 27.  Just got a call that let me know I will be back in the baby business later today because one of my clients is in early labor. Back to work.

I´ve switched my powerlifting training up a bit.  Right now, finances and time dictate that if I´m going to powerlift it´s going to be with either a self-designed program or with some kind of out-of the box online program.  I had started with Starting Strength, and had beautiful, glorious, newbie gains with it but they have slowed down a bit now that I´m about six months in .  That´s to be expected — I started this process with an ok fitness base and I had lifted before in high school, so my form wasn´t too far off.  

What I need now in order to make progress, I think, is some hypertrophy training, so my next out-of-the-box training program is going to be Juggernaut.  I really like the idea of working with a little bit more volume (when I add in some assistance exercises) and it feels better to work with a sub-maximal load and be making lots of lifts until I can´t work any more instead of trying to hit a new max every session and failing on my first or second or third rep.  Also, things that do need technical help, like my squats, get lots of reps in this phase to practice with under reasonable loads (exhibit A, my Tuesday workout with 50 squats at 85lbs.)

So, Juggernaut has one main lift a day for four days a week and then has assistance exercises worked in. For right now I´m being really flexible with those as my body feels heavily fatigued or tweaked by new loads.  Tuesday´s workout was just the squats.  Thursday I thought I´d bench press and then do some lower-body assistance stuff like leg presses and turkish get-ups.  

One other thing that this means is that my workouts are on a different schedule than the rest of the family, so I´m moving them to the mornings and then tagging along with them and doing easy stuff while they are at the gym.  13 loves to swim and has been pretty consistent about it, so I´ve been hopping in the pool while he´s there.

It feels good to swim again.  You can dig through the archives for a post about my complicated feelings about swimming, but a few more trips to the pool and I am almost exclusively positive about it right now.  

When I was a teenager and swimming 3-5 hours a day I had killer hip mobility which translated very nicely to ballet class and impressing people in yoga.  One of the things that I hope will come back with more frequent swim workouts is mobility in my right hip.  It has been limiting my martial arts progress for a bit and I´m hoping that a few hundred thousand yards of breaststroke will work the rust out.

Circling back to our headline, though — the one bad thing about swimming is that I haven´t worked out a low-tech, low-cost way to be connected to my phone.  So now that I´ve got a baby lined up on the runway,  I can´t go to the pool.  Even sadder, I can´t go to the sauna.  

I´ve developed a small addiction to the sauna, which is ironic, because in real life I absolutely hate being hot.  But the sauna is like a big, fat reset button for my brain chemistry (this is backed by research) and also seems to help me recover from my workouts better.  Plus my skin loves it and, well, vanity.

So, I´m chasing my workout and baking endorphins by doing some kettlebell swings today.  I´m completely overjoyed to report that swinging a 30-lb bell feels way too light now, so I´ve moved up to the 50.  Whoa.  I can’t quite manage it for 200 swings in a row yet, but I´m cranking out sets of 25 while unloading my dishwasher, touching up my toenail polish, eating rice and hot sauce, and whatever else I´m supposed to be doing when I´m going to work in an indeterminate amount of hours and have no idea when I will finish and come home.

For my personal reference and your curiosity, this is what I´m doing these days:

Monday — rest day

Tuesday — lift, martial arts class, easy swim or stretch, sauna

Wednesday — easy swim, sauna

Thursday — lift, easy swim or stretch, sauna

Friday — lift, sauna

Saturday — martial arts class

Sunday, martial arts class, lift

This feels good right now and even though it looks like a lot, I´m enjoying it.

What I Did Instead of Working Out on Sunday

When I was training for my half-marathon, I was in the middle of building my midwifery practice and it wasn’t a rare occasion that I felt like ass because I was running on a sleep deficit that was stretching across several days or weeks.  You see, if you work 30 hours in a row and then come home at 6am and crash and get a three hour nap before you have to start taking care of your kids or go back to work again and then you sleep 5 hours a night for the next six days, you don’t ever feel awesome.

I knew that I wanted to be fit and I knew that my life wasn’t going to change anytime soon, so I just decided to power through.  I made a rule that I had to do the run/bike/HIIT class that I had planned for the day unless I was actually working at the moment that they were supposed to occur.  I became the queen of discipline.

That was some dumb shit.

Dear readers, could you guess what happened next?  It took another year, and a marathon, but then I totally crashed and burned. Shocking.

So, this weekend I found myself in the familiar territory of having a few workouts scheduled (an iaido class, a bike ride, a powerlifting workout).  I missed them all.  I worked most of the day on Friday and then worked from 1am Saturday to 3am Sunday, then from noon to 6pm on Sunday.  You know what I did for the rest of Sunday?  I held down the couch.

In that three day weekend I got to be part of two amazing births, including helping a mom have a healthy baby girl after she’d lost two previous children to a congenital disorder.  I was a big ball of ugly crying when that birth was done and everything was joyful and triumphant.  The stress of carrying the desire for a happy outcome on that one made me even more wore out than normal.  I understand that for most people working 30 hours in two days would be enough to be wore out. It’s not my everyday normal, but it’s my normal.

It would seem to make sense to skip a workout after having your body and mind thrown through the grinder, but it is something I have to make a conscious effort to allow myself to do.  I’m feeling a little different about fitness these days — the weightlifting and short, high-intensity cardio I’m doing leave me less flattened than long, steady-state cardio workouts did and so I don’t have to force myself to do them.  I’m not really using my willpower to get to the gym.  And I’m not punishing myself when I don’t get there.

A funny thing is happening — when I rest and drink enough water and have enough recovery time between workouts, I can do more.  (I realize this is not rocket science, but allow me some grace for figuring out human physiology 101).  And it’s exciting to go to the gym and totally crush my goals.  I know that my progress will suffer if I skip a week or two weeks or a month, but it’s actually ok to take care of myself and enter my workouts healthy.  This is my new balance with my crazy life.  Last night I hit PRs on all my lifts and tried a few new accessory exercises (and had gas in the tank to do them). I still expect to work myself up to a heavy training schedule, but I’m also planning to be more holistic in my approach — seeing nutrition, rest, and strength and cardio work all as part of training and all equally valuable.  I’m already a champion napper.  I think I have a good start.

It’s Not You, It’s Me


Pinkhairedchickenmama and I pausing on a run during happier times.

Dear running,

I have to break up with you.  Our relationship has not been good for a while.  When we met I was all in, maybe a little bit too soon. Spending time with you gave me a kind of heady feeling, some would say addictive.  But there have been signs since the beginning, red flags if you will, that we are a bad match.  I have other lovers now, and while things aren’t necessarily easier with them either, I just get don’t worn down by the them the way I did with you.  Plus, they’re sexier.  Sorry.  Well, sorry not sorry.

Be well,


I have a backstory, as lots of people do, which put me in the not-so-unique position of having two young kids and being in crap shape.  I had a few false starts at trying to improve my fitness (including a very fun, but ultimately too time-consuming stint on a competitive rowing team) but found that I couldn’t stay consistent with anything fitness-related because of the constant pull of insomnia, kid-wrangling, work-wrangling, and inertia.

But then I found running.  And because it was something that could be done in my own neighborhood, with no prep time and minimal gear, it seemed doable.  I did couch to 5k four times before making it through the program (should have been my first hint), but kept going and then joined a running group where my embarrassment about being last every time motivated me to gain speed and distance at a reasonable pace.  I ran my first 5k, a women’s only race, and placed a full 15 minutes after my friends.  But then I PR’ed every single race after that, running about one every one-two months.  I started to feel like a fit person.  I was proud of myself.

With the help of an amazing group of people at the Ypsi Studio, I managed to train for what seemed to be an impossible distance, the half-marathon, and ran a very satisfying 2:32 in the Detroit Free Press International Marathon (half-marathon event).  It was a real peak experience and I savored every minute of it.  I felt healthy and strong and capable.  I knew I wasn’t the fastest runner there, but I finished the distance just fine and I did so at 218 lbs.  I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished and felt like my fitness was better than it had been in years.  And it was. Training for the half-marathon took me from someone who struggled to finish a 5k without walking to someone who cranked out 9 and 10 mile training runs and had a bit to give.

Looking back, though, I wonder if it was the running that led to my fitness gains or if the running just benefitted from my fitness gains.  I was running in the mornings twice a week with the Studio running group, then filling out my program with three more runs a week.  But I also was doing bootcamp classes, spinning, and a HIIT workout with the Studio’s owner, Julia Collins.  Sometimes I was doing three workouts in a row — running with the group then staying for bootcamp and spin.  I think that my body responds awesomely to resistance training and high-intensity cardio.  And maybe not so much to the long slog of distance running training. I often felt like my long runs were my least effective days.

This became really obvious when I tried to springboard from my half-marathon success and train for a marathon the next year.   One mistake — I started training too early on an ankle I had broken in a rock-climbing accident.  But really, marathon training was just one fail after another.  As running replaced my other workouts, I actually felt my body get weaker.  My adrenals took a hit.  I began to get repetitive stress injuries.  I had to roll my IT bands every day or they felt like concrete when I ran.  I had absolutely debilitating heel spurs.  My knees sounded like they had a bag of marbles in them every time I went up or down the stairs. I gained 25 lbs.  My long runs were three and four and five-hour-long exercises in sheer will against a constant desire to quit, followed by a day on the couch.

My friends from the Studio and from our running community were super-encouraging on the day of the race and it did feel like a triumph, though strangely not as satisfying as my half and with a time much less satisfying — over six and a half hours.  I could say that I ran a marathon, but, in reality, I wasn’t sure I would ever want to run again.  And, two and half years later, I’ve gathered together all of my false starts in running, attempts to use running for fitness gains again, and I’m officially saying goodbye.

My closure was inspired by one of my neighbors, who has found a new love of running by running races of only a single mile, finding meaning in being fast.  Here is her story:

Sierra’s writing about how holding the marathon as the pinnacle of the recreational running experience led her to doubt her body resonated pretty strongly with me and awoke me one step at a time to something I hadn’t realized:  running puts me in a constant battle with my body.  Sierra came to a slightly different conclusion — she decided that her body type was more suited to a faster, shorter race.  I decided that I’m not going to run at all.

I’m now about 270 lbs.  And even if I get down to 218 again, or lower, to my fighting weight of, say, 165-185 lbs, I still don’t think running will be my best sport.  I’m in a head space where I don’t want to make weight loss my primary focus, rather I want performance and strength.  And I’m finding that there are a lot of sports where my weight is not the kind of hindrance that it is in running.  Because even 165lb me is not going to be a Boston qualifier.  I’ve accepted that.  My muscle-y self is not made for it.  And I don’t want to do a sport where I’m thinking that if I could just lose a little muscle weight, I’d be faster.  It’s a battle I don’t want to fight.  Running makes my body my own enemy, and I hate that.

I’m an awesome athlete, when I train consistently, and I sometimes make sick improvements in short amounts of time that surprise me when I pick the right activities. When I was cross-training for the half, I surprised my trainer by pulling 400 watts consistently on the erg and I’m erg training now, trying to get a 5k time less than 20 minutes.  I think I’ll get there by the end of the month.  I can cycle efficiently and tear up the mountain bike trails.  I can swim long distances easily.  But what I really can do is lift weights.

What all of these activities have in common is that having a more muscled body is a strength, not a weakness for them.  I knew that I would excel in weightlifting because I have a long-ago history with it and a little flirting relationship with it from HIIT.  But now that I am working an actual powerlifting program, I am absolutely, totally, head over heels in love.  And I’m crushing it for now.  I feel at harmony with my body in a way that I haven’t for years while exercising.  I’m dreaming big dreams about how far I can go with this sport and, best of all, I can do it in the body that I’m in.  LOVE.

Back on the Beast-Wagon

There have been some recent conversations between pinkhairedchickenmama and I regarding shaking off our stuckness. And just like the ice is leaving the Great Lakes and the ground is thawing all of the way through, so are we shaking off our winter blues and stepping out into the springtime to look around.

She was brave enough to register for one of the hardest trail half-marathons in Michigan and is starting running down the country roads near her farm full of wayward creatures trying to train after being seriously sidelined by illness and injury. She got mobile rural internet access, aka a smartphone, to help track her nutrition. I just finished passing a big belt test for my Iaido training and am going full gonzo into working out with my new gym membership. Truth be told, I’ve got my whole motley nerdy family on a powerlifting program. The YMCA has seen nothing like us.

We’re going to try to write more about this journey, be consistent, accomplish something, be epic, be beastly. Stay tuned.

Hey Ho, let’s go!

I once stayed up all night delivering a baby and then curled up on the couch, water bottle clutched in my hand, squeezing my eyes shut for 15 minutes before my ride picked me up to go to a race.  I PRed by something like three minutes because I got to the starting line and said something to myself like “I’m totally wrecked, there’s no chance that I’m going to do well, so I might as well run as fast as I can until I run out of gas and just call it a day.  Fuck it.”  And then I took off, unhindered by fear of pacing myself too fast, dehydrated and wiped out and ran really, really hard through the hills of my town and had to blink my eyes when I saw the clock at the end.

I also have days, though, where the demands of mother-wife-daughter-sister-friend-midwife-community member leave me so knackered that all I want to do is lie on my bed, eating avocado toast and watching youtube.  And I do.  Until sweet slumber takes me and keeps me past the time I have to workout if I want to do so before the day’s responsibilities have me reigned in.

One of my best friends, pinkhairedchickenmama, and I are starting this blog to talk about our day to day efforts to achieve pure awesomeness in the pursuit of athletic goals meaningful to us.  This blog is about the pendulum swing between working out *really, really hard* to try and do things that we shouldn’t be able to do, like run marathons, get black belts in martial arts, lift cars, you know, things like that, and the opposite end of the spectrum, which is practicing radical self-care and being just fine with where we are right now.  We’re both midwives on call 24-7.  We’re both parents.  We sometimes don’t sleep for days.   We’re both fat.  These are our challenges and also the things that make us strong.

Pinkhairedchickenmama wants to lose a bunch of weight and be really strong and run long distances; I want to run another marathon in about 5.5 hours (and raise a shit ton of money for midwives in the process).  I want to eat a whole lot better than I do right now. I want to be able to lift completely mind-blowing amounts of weight.  I have mixed feelings about how weight loss ranks with my other goals in my pursuit of total awesomeness.  We’re different that way.  It’s ok.

I want to give big fat juicy smooches to the writers who have been so active in the fat positivity movement.  They have paved the way for a lot of people to be comfortable in their own skin.  I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I think that pinkhairedchickenmama is comfortable in her own skin too.  But we also want to make a space for it to be ok to want to change our bodies too for lots of reasons — for speed, for agility, for aesthetics.  We might whine.  But mostly you’ll just see awesome here.  Lots and lots of awesome.  A “plus -size” amount of awesome.