Making change: Real change makes weight room a hit

Melinda Mawdsley

The goal: I want to add muscle and get my upper arms to stop jiggling when I wave.

The result: Muscle added — YES! — but arm jiggle remains, although it’s not as awful as it once was.

For the past six months, I’ve been on a consistent strength-training program outlined in Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little’s book “Body by Science” to add muscle and tone up, then figured I’d join the Making Change experiment three months ago since I was following this workout anyway.

I’m happy to report that, although the Making Change project has ended, I will continue my short, intense strength-training workouts because I’ve noticed real change in both my muscle mass and overall fitness level.

Plus, my husband and I thoroughly enjoy working out together.

It’s been a process of trial-and-error in finding the machines at Crossroads Fitness that work best for us. I’m only 5-foot-1, so not every machine fits me well.

We’ve also experimented with different seat or handle settings in an ongoing effort to figure out which settings work the most muscle groups.

The point: We haven’t been afraid to change something or risk looking silly by the way we lift weights.

The premise of the “Body by Science” strength-training workout is to lift weight slowly until the point of fatigue. I go through my rotation of five machines — seated row, chest press, overhead press, leg press and pull down — then my husband takes his turn.

If we successfully lift any given weight on a particular machine for more than 90 seconds, it’s time to increase the weight.

We don’t lift fast, take breaks or do multiple sets like many people we see at the gym.

But this program works for us and only going once a week — the long time off is when muscle growth and bone density increases happen — has kept us motivated. We look forward to going to the gym with our water bottle, weightlighting gloves, timer and results spreadsheet.

Here is a roundup of the gains I’ve made since January.

■ Seated row — I lifted 80 pounds Jan. 4 and 80 pounds April 5. (I dropped the seat down two months ago because I wasn’t working my lower back enough. I had to drop down weight, as well, but I’m back to where I was when I made the seat switch.) I started in October at 40 pounds.

■ Chest press — I’ve used three different machines and just switched to the third one two weeks ago. For an idea of how different machines can be, I lifted 50 pounds for months on the same machine. I switched to the new one so my short arms are a little closer together and already lift 70 pounds.

■ Overhead press — I lifted 35 pounds Jan. 4 and have increased to 50 pounds April 5. I started at 30 pounds in October.

■ Leg press — I was at 75 pounds Jan. 4, which was about the same time I moved to a downstairs machine, and now lift 180 pounds. You read that right. Full disclosure: I build leg muscle fast. Always have. I was worried that lifting this much weight would make my legs bulk up like a professional weight lifter. It hasn’t.

■ Pull down — I lifted 70 pounds on Jan. 4 and lifted 90 pounds April 5. I started at 45 pounds in October.

The extra benefit of this program is cardiovascular. My heart really gets going as I rotate through the machines but stays at an elevated rate for nearly 10 minutes after I’m done. I’ve noticed the improved fitness on hikes.

The downside is I don’t know how much weight I’ve gained or lost because I didn’t track my weight from the beginning. I normally don’t weigh myself, anyway, so I forgot. I gauge how I look by how my clothes fit, and they fit fine.

I do know my husband and I did not eat well over the winter — hello carbs — so I’m ready for summer when I crave salads instead of pizza and seeing the additional gains we make.


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