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hornblower

going to the gym to do weights

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Those of you who do this - esp the middle aged crowd - um, just how do you do this? How do you know what to do and how many repetitions and what weight? How long do you do it for? 

Do you have a personal trainer? How do I get started? 

I've only ever gone to gyms to do aerobic workouts and the weight room is always super intimidating, even in low key rec center gyms. There's always some guy who has to go through doors sideways cause he's so wide and I kind of stand there for a minute looking around and run away to Zumba and yoga. 

 

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I can tell you how I started, but it was pretty much on accident. :biggrin:  My ds was doing classes at the Y and I had increasing amounts of time to fill. Finally I was like Oh they meant for the moms to go work out! LOL But I was really out of shape, like REALLY out of shape. I was 60 pounds overweight for my frame and could not sit up if you got me flat. 

So I did this intake with a skinny Swiss chick at the Y (I kid you not, she's really skinny and has an accent) and she's like oh drink your beer but work out! And I'm like fine, I can live with that. (I don't drink, but it seemed sensible, lol.) And she's like just pick 3 things, any 3 things, and do them each for 10 minutes. I'm like fine, I can do that. So our Y women's room (not the one with the big burley guys, who are actually really nice btw) had 3 tvs and I would do 3 different machines for 10 minutes each and switch tvs with each machine. I'm like this is good, I'm catching up on my tv, I can do this. 

For the treadmill, I started at 2.4 mph and needed to stop to break it after 2 minutes. I kid you not. I was THAT out of shape. Well that and it turns out I had asthma and vocal cord dysfunction, oops. And my thyroid was low. But yeah, I was starting really low. If you can walk for more than 2 minutes at a super slow pace, you're better than I was, lol. So after I did that a while, I was like man these machines are boring (I'm not a cardio woman), wish I could go do the weight machines... 

So I got my brave on and started doing the smallest, youth machines in the women's area. I'm 5'5" (I lost a 1/2" and I'm kinda upset about that) and youth machines fit me without a lot of adjustments. I did ONE machine the first week, and I did that like 3-4 times, basically every time I was at the gym doing that 30 minutes with the 3 cardio machines. Then the next week I added a 2nd machine and the following week a 3rd and so on. Insert week where I tried another machine, strained my back, inflamed my piriformis and could hardly walk for a number of weeks. THAT was bad! Insert learning how to stretch said piriformis and deciding stretching is even more important than I realized and no more being dumb when you're 40+.

So I kept doing those machines, doing 4-5 machines that were youth size, easy to operate, till I was pretty much maxing them out for weight. And the nice lady would come by and she's like REALLY YOU COULD BE DOING MORE... And I'm like nope, you don't understand I'm overweight and this and that. So finally she hauls me to this class they aptly call BODYSHOCK led by this chick who, I kid you not, is IN THE ARMY!!! I came out of that class holding up the walls, haha, but I realized I was stronger than I knew and that I didn't need those machines anymore, that I was ready to do weight in motion. My brave was on. 

I did bodyshock for, I don't know how long, and then I started having the itch for weight again. I have sensory issues and am sensory seeking, so I really crave weight. Like I'm kinda vicious. I'm gonna lift more, throw more, do more just because the weight feels SO GOOD. 

So I started a weightlifting class at the Y with one of those big burly dudes you're scared of. Turns out it's almost all women anyway. I did that for a while, learned good form, got to lifting heavy, then I took off a semester taking my ds to a zillion therapies, ate a lot of donuts that were up the road from the therapies, gained back 20 pounds, increasing 2 clothing sizes, had pneumonia and bronchitis like 7 times in 1 1/2 years (I actually lost count), WON my legal fight for my ds' IEP, got a better intervention for my asthma so I could stop being sick, and then was too tired and flumpy to get back into it.

So I was like ok, you don't need a skinny chick to tell you what to do, just go do it! I went back in, started working out, and found out the teacher from the weight class would write plans. I'm like fine, I don't need a class, but I do need a plan that holds my butt accountable and helps me make progress, a no excuses thing. Also I had been having some shoulder pain, etc. and wanted to make sure we were working ALL the muscles (they call them accessories, haha) so I wouldn't get hurt. 

I've been back doing that 3 months now, and I'm benching heavier than I was before my break and sicknesses. My deadlift is not back, sigh. It's better than it was, but it's going to take time. My core had gotten really weak while I was out and I was having a lot of trouble with my breathing. You have to have it ALL there to be strong and lift heavy, kwim? When I went in to actually LIFT, the guy was like DUDE you're strong!! I'm like I'm MOM STRONG, hahaha. But really, I can see now that the overall fitness from that bodyshock class, where we were doing a lot of dynamic movements, things with weight but in motion, had made me OVERALL strong. I need to go back to that. I have some of the old workouts and want to add it in as a way to get my cardio up. 

I'm not sure about tips to find a good trainer, a good person to make plans. I think if you go to a variety of classes (at the Y, at a fitness center), you'll start to get a feel for the variety out there and what you're wanting. Working out in an overall, whole body, dynamic way using lots of bodyweight and a few free weights will make you stronger overall. You can also pay for plans or work out with a trainer. I think people's styles vary on that. I'm pretty in my tunnel, so I don't need someone to make me do something. I just go in with my list and work it. I have friends at the gym and make friends, but I'm just doing my thing. But some people are way better with a class, a workout partner, someone working out with them. And the guy who makes my plans is in the gym, so he can spot me, check form, answer questions, etc. If you want to lift HEAVY (which you do!!), emphasize form, good form, and getting help to have good form.

What I notice is there a personal trainers who pass a test and are sorta wanna bes, the people who wanted to get fit. And there are some who are like easily fit, and they like it, but they're like these really nice people that just have a good personality to get people to do things. And then there are people who are more on the crazy/obsessed side, like my guy. I like that. It's all different what they're going to have you do, what those plans will look like. So that nice middle person I described is not the person coaching really precise deadlifts to help you go 200+. But if you're overweight, have some injuries, and you need an overall safe plan, they're definitely who you want!!!

So getting the person who fits the way you want/need to work out now is smart. Then, if that need changes, you just switch over to someone else. It's not like a long contract or something. It's always just steps.

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1 hour ago, hornblower said:

There's always some guy who has to go through doors sideways cause he's so wide

PS. The short answer is these guys are very nice. Start with a class, get stronger, and if you want to go beyond the class get someone there to tell you who can make your plans.

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The low key recreational center my kids go to have a personal trainer service but I don’t know what’s the fee. The free weights area is use at your own liability after a compulsory orientation for new recreational center members.

The sports clubs that we visited has membership fees that included a personal trainer. The family membership fees are high and less sports are offered so we didn’t sign up for any of the sports club membership. 

I would opt for a personal trainer just because I get dizzy easily and a trainer would minimize me injuring myself if I have a sudden cramp or dizzy spell. When I was in college, at least a friend would be with me watching me while I am doing weights. I would actually need a physical therapist rather than a personal trainer for starters.

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I started off by going to some boot camps with a trainer, and then I continued on my own, but I workout at home.

I really like Fitness Blender (online, free) because they emphasize and model good form. However, when you first start out it is probably good to get some guidance. I know from experience that there were times I thought I was doing what I was supposed to but the trainer in boot camp would correct my form. 

I use Fitness Blender workouts so those direct what exercises I do with the weights. Generally I do arms twice a week, legs twice a week, HIIT/Abs once a week and run once a week. I get bored easily but I do love routine so this mix-up suits me well. 

I wish you all the best as you seek to get stronger and healthier!!

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Most gyms should offer some kind of orientation class on how to use weight lifting equipment.  All of those machines follow the same basic principles, but it's good to have a staff member go over how to change weights, etc.  From there, investing in a couple of personal trainer sessions is a good idea, just to learn form.  It's easy to get injured with weights through bad form.  

From there, you might want to just look at a few books- I really like New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women, but there are many good ones out there- to get a basic routine.  Any how-to book will have lots of possible routines in the back of the book for you to work through.  Once you've done that for a while, you'll be ready to start designing your own.  

Safety first.  When you have your orientation, remember which lifts can be safely performed without a spotter, and which require a spotter to be safe.  All machine lifts are safe alone (to the best of my knowledge), and most dumbell weights are safe alone, but barbells often require a spotter.  

 

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I think starting with someone who can show you proper form is super important, because you can't continue if you injure yourself.

I started getting fit way back with Pilates, which of course has no weights, but taught me how to use my core, which has been very helpful with pretty much everything, but it's also super-important in weights.

Back then I lost 30 lbs (baby weight) and got reasonably toned.  Then when my kids were in high school their schedule was such that I drove them around all the time and stopped going and put all the weight back on and lost a lot of tone.  My posture even got bad.  I had told myself I'd do stuff at home, but I am apparently not able to follow through - I need to have to be somewhere (which is why a generic gym membership, for me, isn't much better).

A few years ago I started back up with Pilates and started rowing - I read somewhere that your mitochnodria decrease dramatically as you age if you don't use them.  Your body will build more if you start doing aerobic exercise, but it's basically use it or lose it.  I have always hated cardio; rowing (in a boat) seemed better than, say, running (ewwww).

This winter I started going to Orangetheory.   The aim was just to stay in shape for rowing season, and I was looking for somewhere that had rowing machines and also did weights for strength.  I ended up really loving it.  There's always a good part of the class that has free weights, body weight (alone or with TRX).  A lot of people seem to be able to encourage themselves to go to the gym (or even do things at home) and really push themselves, but I'm not one of them.  I couldn't afford a personal trainer, but the coach in the class will always shows proper form and also checks to make sure you're using it.  It's a great mix between individualized attention and a class, and keeps me motivated and pushing myself. They also design all the workouts, which change every day, so I'm never bored and different parts of the body are covered, but I don't have to plan anything.  I've finally lost most of the weight again (down almost 25), and I'm definitely lifting much more weight (like PeterPan, I like heavy weights and like to push myself - but I do back off if I feel any twinges or my form starts to go - I'm 54 and injury can take you out of commission and then I'd likely be back to square one).  There's also a lot of cardio built into the class which makes me do it.  I can tell I have much more energy as well as being stronger.

Figure out what works for you, but I'd definitely start with a personal trainer or with a class that has a good level of individualized attention to form.

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21 minutes ago, Matryoshka said:

I read somewhere that your mitochnodria decrease dramatically as you age if you don't use them.

You also lose like 1 pound of muscle a year after age such and such if you aren't doing resistance exercise to keep it. So even if you weigh the same, you're slowly losing muscle...

Ok, on the whole lifting form and then dump, there's more to it than that. if you actually want to lift HEAVY, you don't just lift the same thing over and over. They'll have you do lighter days, heavier days, control volume (how many reps and how many sets), increase each week then deload, etc. Also I'm not good at feeling what is safe for me, because it's just an issue I have. So I can get hurt just lifting on my own and people do. But when I lift with someone telling me what to lift, he's watching the speed of the sets and he can actually tell how much I'll lift that session, how much we can go up, etc.

Edited by PeterPan
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21 minutes ago, Matryoshka said:

I was looking for somewhere that had rowing machines

Rowing machines are fun!! They're sort of beastly, so they give you that resistance and that ability to alter resistance. They only have them at our Y in the main gym, so once I got in there for weights I started exploring. I'm like *5* minutes on a rowing machine, lol. I so need to do more cardio. I've been using this Powerbreathe thing, so we'll see where that gets me.

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I met with a personal trainer to set up a plan that is appropriate for me.

If you have ever had pelvic floor issues, you SHOULD NOT BE LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHTS.  Ever.  A lot of pelvic floor issues come down to weakened tendons supporting organs in the pelvis. Even if you have somewhat remediated your pelvic floor by strengthening your core and doing a bazillion kegels and things seem mostly under control, you still shouldn't lift heavy weights. (And by heavy weights, the consensus seems to be 10-15 lbs. combined among the pelvic floor rehab PT and OB-GYN specialists I've worked with.)  Additionally, there are some exercises that you should never do: traditional crunches, traditional planks, traditional squats, ab exercises with a medicine ball, v-sitting, etc. I mention this only because pelvic floor issues are so prevalent and most trainers, even good ones, don't have any clue of how to handle pelvic floor issues in an appropriate way. 

I worked first on getting my core strong and then focused on technique. I do mostly hand weights (2.5 lbs) and theraband work, or I use TRX straps against my own body weight. I do VERY JOINT PROTECTIVE things because I have RA and OA.  

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1 minute ago, PeterPan said:

You also lose like 1 pound of muscle a year after age such and such if you aren't doing resistance exercise to keep it. So even if you weigh the same, you're slowly losing muscle...

Ok, on the whole lifting form and then dump, there's more to it than that. if you actually want to lift HEAVY, you don't just lift the same thing over and over. They'll have you do lighter days, heavier days, increase each week then deload, etc. Also I'm not good at feeling what is safe for me, because it's just an issue I have. So I can get hurt just lifting on my own and people do. But when I lift with someone telling me what to lift, he's watching the speed of the sets and he can actually tell how much I'll lift that session, how much we can go up, etc.


Yes, yes.  You also lose power as you age - it's depressing when no matter how hard I go at it rowing, the young thing next to me is hitting it way harder (with watts, anyway) even with total crap form (they're not as good making sure people have proper rowing form).  Sigh. Same with guys - so much more power.  But it does feel good when I see I can lift more than some of those skinny young things (but certainly far from all - I choose my feel good comparisons judiciously. :wink:).  The classes alternate between strength, endurance, and power days, so that the weights and reps also change along with what body parts are concentrated on.

This is why I figure I have to keep at it - even keeping at it you're going to decline a bit as you age, but if you do nothing, you can really fall apart.  I was horrified when I realized my posture was going in those years I took off.  Don't want to be one of those old ladies with a bump on my back!

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Just now, prairiewindmomma said:

most trainers, even good ones, don't have any clue of how to handle pelvic floor issues in an appropriate way. 

Actually that to me is what's scary about the whole profession. This one was like yeah, I just finished my certificate online... I haven't looked into it, but I was told it was a one year certificate. So experience is really going to vary there. Someone else mentioned PT, and that's where I started before I ever hit the gym. She had me lie on my stomach and suck in, because gravity even was a lot of resistance. 

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2 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Actually that to me is what's scary about the whole profession. This one was like yeah, I just finished my certificate online... I haven't looked into it, but I was told it was a one year certificate. So experience is really going to vary there. Someone else mentioned PT, and that's where I started before I ever hit the gym. She had me lie on my stomach and suck in, because gravity even was a lot of resistance. 

Yeah, if you have serious health issues, I always recommend starting with PT first and getting a list of dos and don'ts and then if you need follow up support go see a trainer. There *are* specialized certifications for some things, but it's hard to find them and even then my experience has been mixed.  As an example, a good friend of mine is arthritis certified for water aerobics, which is awesome. There are others who specialize in breast cancer survivors or other subspecialties. (While weight lifting can reduce lymphedema, there are some exercises you should avoid---go research the rabbit trail if you aren't already aware.)

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28 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

I met with a personal trainer to set up a plan that is appropriate for me.

If you have ever had pelvic floor issues, you SHOULD NOT BE LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHTS.  Ever.  A lot of pelvic floor issues come down to weakened tendons supporting organs in the pelvis. Even if you have somewhat remediated your pelvic floor by strengthening your core and doing a bazillion kegels and things seem mostly under control, you still shouldn't lift heavy weights. (And by heavy weights, the consensus seems to be 10-15 lbs. combined among the pelvic floor rehab PT and OB-GYN specialists I've worked with.)  Additionally, there are some exercises that you should never do: traditional crunches, traditional planks, traditional squats, ab exercises with a medicine ball, v-sitting, etc. I mention this only because pelvic floor issues are so prevalent and most trainers, even good ones, don't have any clue of how to handle pelvic floor issues in an appropriate way. 

I worked first on getting my core strong and then focused on technique. I do mostly hand weights (2.5 lbs) and theraband work, or I use TRX straps against my own body weight. I do VERY JOINT PROTECTIVE things because I have RA and OA.  

 

I had no idea that 10-15 pounds was considered heavy weight. I thought my doing rows with 20 lbs in each hand was on the wimpy side.  The lightest weight I use is 5 lbs in each hand and that is for a tabata lateral raise.  Can you refer me to some articles I can read on this?  Thank you.

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19 minutes ago, cintinative said:

 

I had no idea that 10-15 pounds was considered heavy weight. I thought my doing rows with 20 lbs in each hand was on the wimpy side.  The lightest weight I use is 5 lbs in each hand and that is for a tabata lateral raise.  Can you refer me to some articles I can read on this?  Thank you.

Yeah, I was with you reading that. I figured she must have been referring to a problem I didn't have. When I went to the PT she had me doing pelvic floor, core, knees, blah blah, but it was like some injury or far-progressed thing that would preclude my ability to lift weights safely. She never mentioned that lifting was contraindicated for me. And those amounts of weight are like paperclips on me, a nothing, lol. 

I think it's a good warning, to be sure. I just don't know how you'd know who it applies to. There are 80 yo ladies who start weight lifting, so it doesn't have to be this perfect body, only certain people kinda thing. Now what *does* change is recovery time between workouts. We have a gentleman lift heavy who is older, but he takes off multiple days between sets.

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44 minutes ago, cintinative said:

I had no idea that 10-15 pounds was considered heavy weight. I thought my doing rows with 20 lbs in each hand was on the wimpy side.  The lightest weight I use is 5 lbs in each hand and that is for a tabata lateral raise.  Can you refer me to some articles I can read on this?  Thank you.


I know in mixed Pilates classes we always had low weights - 2-3 lbs - but we did hold them out there often for a long time.  But where I am now I lift up to 20 with a lot of arm stuff (which I do consider heavy, but it's getting easier!) and more for squats/deadlifts or things.  But that's for low reps.  On high rep days I back off to 15 or sometimes even lower depending on the day and exercise, and I still struggle to get even to 10 lbs. with some of those lateral lifts (the 'fly' ones).  But 10-15 doesn't seem like it's 'heavy' on a weight-lifting scale...  Context, I guess...

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Yes: the context of “10-15 lb limit” is specifically with regards to pelvic floor dysfunction. If you have had organ prolapse (cystocele, rectocele, or uterine) or incontinence (stress or otherwise) then you likely fall into pelvic floor dysfunction. 

I used to lift (pre-kids) much much heavier stuff. 

Pericoach (ignore all of her attempts to sell her product) has some good reference material re: what weight exercises to avoid and good info in general. I have not seen specific weight limits on her website—just general warnings. There is very little comprehensive stuff out there on the web for middle aged women with pelvic dysfunction. Most is written in the context of post c-section/postpartum recovery and not what happens in the aftermath. I found that info really helpful for healing my diastasis but not for managing tendons which hold organs in place, iykwim. A strong core protects you but it doesn’t resolve muscle weakness in the pelvic floor. 

Also, always kegel when lifting laundry baskets, going up stairs, etc. Likewise, when weight lifting.

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Ok, ds doesn't need to leave for five more minutes...quick links:

https://www.pericoach.com/2016/07/19/weightlifting-crossfit-pelvic-floor-friend-foe/ (skim down to weight lifting exercises to avoid)

http://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au/pages/pelvic-floor-safe-resistance-exercises.html

https://www.coreexercisesolutions.com/5-key-steps-for-helping-clients-with-pelvic-organ-prolapse-to-lift-safely/---an example of someone who has created a certification program on training for pregnancy and postpartum pelvic floor exercising. I think she's right on the fundamental issues: focus on breathing, brace with your core when lifting, make sure your glutes and hips are firing correctly....but note that the doctor views success as being able to run a half-marathon or safely lift a 30 lb. suitcase into an overhead bin on an airplane.  We're not talking about deadlifting 100 lbs, iykwim. 

Have I occasionally lifted more than 15 lbs? Yeah. I totally took care of my own suitcase on the airplane this past weekend. Did I brace and breathe appropriately? Yeah, absolutely, and I'm not going to do that kind of lifting day in and day out repetitively because I don't want to worsen my condition.

For a lot of people---this advice and limitation won't apply, but for some women, pelvic floor issues worsen as they transition into menopause and since there is so little good info out there from pelvic rehab therapists on how to exercise appropriately, I tossed my .02 out there.

 

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prairiewindmomma- thank you for that info! So much for me to sort out. I've had some pelvic issues as a side effect of my chemo and menopause so this is excellent to know. Maybe I should find a pelvic floor person to work with first. 

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1 hour ago, hornblower said:

Maybe I should find a pelvic floor person to work with first. 

There are PTs that specialize in pelvic floor. The PT I used did not specialize in this, but I'll just say that they can create challenging workouts to help you build back up what has gotten weak. It would be a very safe way to get back into things. They might be able to refer you to a personal trainer.

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As someone who has passed Personal Trainer cert tests, I don’t trust trainers just because they got their paper. (Or digital file, lol.). It is a good idea to consult with one for some basics, but I wouldn’t expect them to necessarily know much about special conditions unless they have additional special certifications. 

Sites and pages like Girls Gone Strong and Mama Lion Strong are really great at focusing on safety/form for lifting and body weight exercises. It’s hard for me to watch trainers ignore crummy form, and I see it a lot. They’re so focused on getting the client to hit X number of reps in their allotted time, and not how effective or safe those reps actually are. The best trainers on the internet are the ones who put out free content on performing individual exercises that appear in whatever program they’re selling. Not the ones just pushing their program and promising it’s the best thing for everyone.

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33 minutes ago, Carrie12345 said:

As someone who has passed Personal Trainer cert tests, I don’t trust trainers just because they got their paper. (Or digital file, lol.). It is a good idea to consult with one for some basics, but I wouldn’t expect them to necessarily know much about special conditions unless they have additional special certifications. 

Sites and pages like Girls Gone Strong and Mama Lion Strong are really great at focusing on safety/form for lifting and body weight exercises. It’s hard for me to watch trainers ignore crummy form, and I see it a lot. They’re so focused on getting the client to hit X number of reps in their allotted time, and not how effective or safe those reps actually are. The best trainers on the internet are the ones who put out free content on performing individual exercises that appear in whatever program they’re selling. Not the ones just pushing their program and promising it’s the best thing for everyone.

I’ve been doing weight training for over 30 years. During that time, I’ve seen some trainers who seem to do, one size fits all. Form and breathing are important. As I’ve aged, I do less weight, and focus on breathing and good form. Also, incorporate some exercises that include balance. Hope you find someone that can give guidance🌺

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