summer of strength: the results

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 in Fitness

Waaaaay back in May, I kicked off my Summer of Strength challenge. I took my measurements and set goals. And then, we got hit by the tornado, and all my motivation blew away along with our roof and patio furniture.  But after a few months of dealing with the emotional and logistical nightmare that comes with a natural disaster, I finally got myself on track and kicked some serious arse in the gym to close out the summer. I extended my challenge in an attempt to hit my goals and keep up my momentum. And now, it’s time to share the results.

As far as my “routine” I didn’t really have one. My only real rule was that I needed to switch my focus from all-cardio, all-the-time to a heavily strength-based training regimen. Instead of spending an hour on the elliptical and running miles after miles, I got close and personal with the kettlebells, medicine balls, free weights and Bosu ball. Strength training became my number one priority at the gym.

Let me preface the results by saying, of the three goals I initially set, I achieved exactly none of them. Normally this would make me sad and disappointed, but not this time. This challenge has been incredible for me, and even if I didn’t hit my marks, I have gotten so much stronger, more confident and fitter over the past five months, and that, I consider a victory. Let’s look at the goals individually:

1. Do one, regular “boy” pushup.

I still can’t do a perfect “boy” pushup. But over the challenge, I have progressed from doing wall pushups to doing incline bench pushups. And I can do 10 modified (“girl”) pushups in a row now. At the beginning of this challenge, I could barely squeak out one modified pushup. Every time I’m at the gym, I do a set of pushups. Goal met? No. But I feel really proud of my progress and I’ll get there, eventually.

2. Hold a modified plank for 3 minutes.

So, I haven’t hit the three minute mark, but I have hit two minutes. Over the past five months, I’ve added 90 seconds to my plank time. That is so crazy to me! And as you’ll see in the “after” photos a little later in this post, the core work is paying off. I am so incredibly proud of my two minute plank that I don’t even care that I didn’t meet this goal. My ultimate goal is still a three minute plank and, just like the push-up, I’m still working on it

3. Lose 5% body fat.

When I set this goal, I had just visited the BODPOD and got an extremely accurate weight and body fat measurement. I set this goal assuming that I’d go back to the BODPOD at the end of the challenge. But, in the past few months, I’ve been trying to take a mental break from scales and weight, so I haven’t returned to the BODPOD. I have no idea if I met this goal or not. And I don’t plan on learning anytime soon.

So, fail on all three goals. But are you ready to see some real results? First, let’s talk about measurements. Overall, I lost a total of 11 3/4 inches off my body. Now, last time I stepped on the scale (about six weeks ago), I was actually three pounds heavier than my “before” weight. Lose almost 12 inches, gain three pounds in a summer? I’ll take it. And you, please take this as a reminder that the scale does NOT tell the whole story. The biggest movers were my waist and hip measurements, coming in at almost three inches smaller each. Not too shabby.

Now onto the photos. When I posted my before photos, I said that I didn’t expect to see much change. After all, I’m still over 200 pounds and there is a lot of goo overtop of my muscles. When I was pulling together these first two sets, I got exactly what I expected, small changes, but nothing major. You’ll notice my shorts fit better, my waist is a smidge narrower, my posture is better, and my shoulders are slightly more defined.

But then I started pulling together the photo for the side view and I was gobsmacked by the difference. I’ve often heard that doing core work is like building up a natural girdle, and holy cow, is it the truth. I’m not sucking in in either photo and the difference is remarkable. Everything looks to be pulled in tighter and straighter. Even though my core has a loveable layer of fat over it, you can tell that it is doing its job. Also of note, I’m sure the posture improvement helps with the appearance, and I 100% attribute that to having a stronger core.

Beyond the numerical and photographic results, I am amazed at how much better I feel about having a strong body. Being able to hold a plank for two minutes gives me a sense of pride I’ve never had before. I find myself flexing my guns in the mirror just for kicks. I get satisfaction from lifting heavier and heavier weights. Having a strong body has given me the kind of confidence that cardio-based weight loss never has. Even though the challenge is now over, I will not slow down my strength training anytime soon.

Do you strength train?

16 Comments

  1. wow, congrats! That’s a major difference! :) Good job! I have always had back problems, and I have found that core work really helps me with that. It will definitely straighten you out and give you better posture/make you feel better in general.

  2. Nicely done! Weight training is among my favorite things to do. I’m definitely working more on my core now that I’ve started dancing more. And I’m definitely inspired by your improved posture – mine is terrible!

  3. Way to go Cassie! You look great! :)

    I haven’t started much in the way of strength training yet, but I do a few key exercises such as ball squats (for my quads, to help with a knee injury) and tricep extensions, as well as countertop pushups. I know that yoga is doing a lot for my core, too.

  4. You’re definitely looking stronger! Scales are the devil, take them with a grain of salt ;)

  5. Omg!! absolutely amazing work Cass!!!! you look fabulous:) what are some core workouts that you did? Thumbs up lady!!!

  6. There is definitely a huge difference in the side picture! Good job. And I can’t do a regular pushup either.

  7. Fantastic work! My husband and I diverged for quite a while on the whole strength training issue… he’s a big fan of strength training, more specifically plyometric type strength training and I’m by definition a runner and a yogi. Running and yoga have done my body good, that’s for sure, but I started to feel that running and yoga weren’t necessarily enough. So, I heeded the advice of my hubster, and started a strength routine about 3 months ago. Like you, I’ve enjoyed amazing results… I’m not about to stop running or practicing yoga because I heart them… but I don’t hate strength training so much anymore (especially since the benefits are so gratifying!). Rock on!

  8. That side before and after is remarkable – way to go!

  9. At the moment I don’t train at all. It’s winter and that in combination with my fibromyalgia makes it very hard. At to that a tinieweenie fracture in my elbow and it’s bye, bye workouts.

    Thank god for my border collie who makes sure that at least I get enough exercise walking.

  10. Sweet! You made some awesome progress in just 5 months.
    So. . . will there be a Winter of Strength?

    • I’m definitely not stopping. :D I feel too good!

  11. As bad as this may come across, I love the fact that there is a + in front of the weight change and there is obviously such a major change (in the positive as well) in your body and how you stand.

    Loved this post! :)

  12. Congrats on your progress! Strength training is the way to go. I do strength training 2-3 times a week, and it is definitely helping my body get toned.

  13. Just one of the many reasons you are freaking awesome!!!!! So proud of you and all of your hard work ;)

  14. Congrats on your success! You can definitely see the difference!

    Since we’re starting to creep into winter, I’m realizing that skipping off to Clear Creek Trail and the B-Line isn’t always going to be an option. And I LOVE my treadmill, but I get bored doing the same thing over and over again. So I created a workout schedule for the winter months when I’m not training for a mini and added strength training and yoga. I did planks Tuesday night and thought, “I run all the time, these can’t be THAT hard for me.” I lasted all of 20 seconds on my first one. ha ha. I have a plank goal now, too! Do you do more than just the typical lay-on-your-stomach-and-lift one? I do that followed by side planks, too. I read a rumor that Megan Fox does those all the time and I was like, hey, I wouldn’t mad if my stomach looked like hers one day.

    • I do the standard plank as my “test” but I do a bunch of other core work, too. I do a lot of single and double toe taps (from yoga), back extensions on the ball, leg raises and side twists with the medicine ball. OH and one of my favorites are crunches with a heavy kettlebell. BURNS SO GOOD.

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