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Alert the Media: I have abs again! [Experiment results are in!]

Posted Dec 01 2010 10:20pm
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"Don't you do that!" Gym Buddy Krista commanded me this morning. "I saw your face when you read that number and don't you do that!"

I have a terrible poker face. (Not that I ever play poker; I don't even know the rules. Which is probably why I incorrectly sang "Cutie pie, cutie pie! No he can't have a-my Coke in space..." to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" for months. Right now Turbo Jennie is shaking her head in shame.)

The Gym Buddies and I had just gotten our body fat percentage measured (via the pinchy-pinchy calipers) so that I could write this post and tell you how amazing our Great Rachel Cosgrove The Female Body Breakthrough Fitness Experiment was this month. I was expecting a big drop - I'm down a pants size, my shoulders are cut and my husband told me the other day that he's never seen my abs so defined. See? AMAZING!

Then I got b*tch-slapped by a number and I had to go and let it ruin my day. Which is exactly was Krista was telling me not to do. She used her mom voice and everything. Yep, my body fat percentage went up. I crumpled. Maybe I took it so hard because I haven't weighed myself in so long (3 weeks and counting!!) that I'd forgotten the power that numbers have over me. And maybe it was because Gym Buddy Allison dropped nearly 10% body fat this month (See? AMAZING!) and I am, honestly, jealous.

I kicked my butt hard this month. I didn't miss a single workout. I lifted as heavy as I could manage with good form. I chugged nasty protein shakes and foam-rolled every day and even did her crazy Maypole-dance warm-up (look for a video of that awesomeness coming soon!). I did every single thing Rachel told me to do and I did it my very best!

It was at this point in my self-pity fest that I had a realization: no matter what the numbers say, this Experiment is amazing. It is a fantastic workout you guys. All the Gym Buddies agree that this makes the top 3 best Experiments ever. It was fun, interesting, challenging and - despite that stupid body fat increase this morning (I am on the rag - that might make a difference, right? That might also explain the crumpling and sniffling... hmmm) - it got results. I lost 1/2" off my waist, 1" off my hips, 1/2" off each thigh and, sadly, 1/2" off my chest (that last measurement led to a hilarious discussion on the stretching mats about how exactly one should measure their chest when one has birthed and nursed a litter - the consensus was to leave your sports bra on to keep the girls from getting unruly.)

But even better than measurements going down were these results:
- I can now do a pull-up and a chin-up from a dead hang. I can even do 3 chin-ups in a row.
- My legs are so much stronger. I upped my max speed in my Tabata drills from 11 to 12 mph (that's a 5-minute mile! That I only run in 20 second bursts but STILL).
- My butt's cuter. Rachel doesn't call this the build-a-butt workout for nothing!
- I got to buy new jeans a size smaller because all of mine are too loose in the waist! (Side note: In my never-ending quest to find jeans that will accommodate both my athletic thighs and small waist, I did end up buying some of those Levi's Curve ID jeans . Total disaster. Didn't work at all for me. Had to send them back. There's a reason I love vintage dresses - these hips were made for skirts!)

Chin-ups, faster sprints, slightly visible abs and new clothes (because of course I had to buy that cute sweater that was on sale right next to the jeans, ahem) - see? AMAZING.

Cardio Vs. Weight Lifting for Weight Loss
I know that many of you were waiting with bated breath to hear what happened when I gave up virtually all of my cardio (I kept one, occasionally two, cardio workouts per week) and cut my workouts down from calorie-torching 90-minute runs to 30 minutes of weights alternated with short HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts. I am here to tell you that I think it worked. I know my body fat went up by 1% but that could be human error (calipers are finicky instruments) or my lady issues this week or that we had it measured after our workout instead of before like you're supposed to. And also, 1% isn't that much. (Deep breaths Charlotte!) If I'm just going by how I feel - totally scientific! - then I very much prefer my body after the past 30 days of heavy lifting than I did after the previous month of nothing but running. I'm tighter and more toned and, oh yes, tougher! At the very least I think that this shows that cutting my workout volume down by 2/3 didn't make me fat or bulky.

Also, I found this month that my cravings for sweets were virtually non-existant. I haven't had dessert after dinner - nor even wanted it - for weeks! I've noticed this phenomenon in the past and I believe it's directly tied to the amount of cardio I'm doing. Little cardio = little craving for simple carbs. I love that. Plus it made it easier to eat intuitively.

And in case my oh-so-rigorous Experiment is enough for you, Runner's World put up a new study on their blog today that shows that only 11% of people lose weight while training for a marathon. Of those runners who gained weight, 86% were women. Yeah, I love being a girl. All of which is not to say you should quit running. I love running! I will run races again in the future (and not pull any crazystupid stunts again). There are tons of great reasons to run that have nothing to do with your weight. I'm just saying that if weight or fat loss is your training goal then running or other long steady-state cardio is probably not the best way to achieve that.

The one downside to this set-up was that I discovered I enjoy feeling really spent after a workout. My definition of a "really good workout" involves being drenched in sweat, laying on the floor and knowing that I couldn't have gone a minute longer. With weights though, I will reach muscle failure in the moment but after a ten-minute break I feel like I haven't done anything. So I had this lingering feeling all day that my workouts were too short which was kind of annoying and hard to dismiss.

Conclusions
I love this workout. All the Gym Buddies love this workout (and that's rare to find one that all of us adore!). Allison dropped a lot of weight and nearly 10% body fat! Daria went down a pants size! Krista loved the variety and the difficulty! I'm glad I bought the book. I totally recommend it. The workouts are solid. Her advice is both sane and doable for most people. Since this is a 16-week program and we started on week 9, we will be continuing this Experiment through December and we're all really excited about that. So my half-way report is that this workout is, well, AMAZING.

How did it go for you guys that were doing this along with us this month? What's your definition of a "really good workout"? Do you need to feel totally spent too?

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2010. Thanks for reading!
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