The Older Women in the Weight Room

Today, I went to the YMCA for strength training.  I did 10 minutes or so on the bike, then did the weight machines and a few free weights.  But, one thing I really noticed were all the older women in the weight room.  I mean these were really older.  They looked to mostly be in their 70s.  I must have seen at least 10 exercising there in under an hour.

Going to the Y at mid-afternoon on a weekday is a great time to go.  The weight room is usually not that crowded so there aren’t long waits for most machines.  At that time of day, you mostly get those who don’t work 9 to jobs.  There are some college students, some who work flexible or later hours, some who maybe work from home, and the largest group — retirees.

So, it wasn’t unusual to see a lot of older people in the weight room.  And, as usual, more were men than women.  But, what really struck me today was that there were lot of these older women and they all seemed to be regular users of the weight room.  Most were mostly using the machines, but they all seemed to be experienced and were often lifting weights much higher than I lift.

While I was using the leg curl machine, I noticed a woman using the chest press machine across the way.  I couldn’t help but notice that she was lifting a weight several times higher than I do.  I have never had much upper body strength and that is what went the first with my time off from strength training.  As a result, I can only lift a very low weight.  She was lifting more, though, than I lifted after almost a year of working with a personal trainer.  And, she looked to be at least 80 years old!  I couldn’t help but notice that almost all of these women were very trim and all moved around pretty easily.  Yes, I could see that most of them were at least 10 year older than I am.  I just hope that I am where they are when I get to that point.

It was a good reminder that even into later life, it is possible to strength train and that a lot of benefits can come from it.  It was truly inspiring to watch.

Back to Strength Training!

At long last, I finally got back to strength training and went twice this week.  I made this one of my goals starting out this year.  From mid-2015 to mid-2016, I had worked twice a week with a personal trainer doing strength training.  Then I had to stop when I did my plastic surgery.  I wasn’t fully cleared to do all strength training until around the start of this year.

In January, I rejoined the Y and said I would start going at least twice a week.  And, then, I just…didn’t.  No real excuse.  Yes, I had a lot of things going on.  But, if I wanted to make it a priority I could have made it a priority.  I always just found it easier to use busy schedule as reason not to go.  When I go off track, I find it really hard to get back on.

The past 5 weeks or so I finally got back into using my treadmill, but I knew I really needed to strength train.  So, Tuesday I went with my husband to the Y.  I had actually planned to do it last week, but the hurricane legitimately derailed that (Y was closed most of the week).

We are actually going to a different Y than the one I went to before.  The old one I went to is a little closer, but I like the facilities and equipment at the new Y a little better.  It is also larger and has a greater variety of equipment.  I can still go the the other Y if I want to, so we’ll see if I like the new one better. [Read more…]

Checking In This Friday

Just thought I would check in.  There hasn’t been that much interesting this week either from a food or exercise standpoint.

Well, a little bit maybe.  Food, I’ve mostly worked on getting more protein. Let me see.  Since last Saturday, my daily protein has been: 99, 101, 135, 92, 90, 88, 87.  My goal is 100 grams and my bare minimum is 81 grams.  That is equal to my lean body mass.  I have enough body fat that eating equal to my weight isn’t really necessary.  So, 81g is OK, but I really want to hit 100.  With the limited calories I can eat and still lose fat, given my low resting metabolic rate (1120) it is super hard to get in enough protein.  I ate out Saturday (99g) and Monday (135g).  We bought rotisserie chickens at Whole Foods so I did pretty well early in the week.  Wednesday was low (90gfor a day when I did strength training.  The problem there is that I overslept so had a Quest bar for breakfast.  That was fine, 21g of protein.  But, I had weight training at 1:30 so wasn’t that hungry before hand.  I knew I needed to eat something so I didn’t get low blood sugar so I had a Kay’s Naturals pretzel sticks package (12g) and a cheese stick (7g).  That was OKish.  But then I had a salad for dinner (25g) and even with a couple of snacks only got to 90g for the day.

Thursday I struggled because I ran out of rotisserie chicken.  I did get a sandwich late in the day from Which Wich.  I made it a Skinny Wich (they remove some of the inside of the bread from the roll so it is less calories), I still just got to 88g.  Next time I go there I think I’ll get a Bowlwich which is no bread at all.  Then I could get double chicken and that would work to get more protein for but without the calories and carbs from the bread.

So, what I learned from this is to really priortize the protein and have some more lower calorie sources of protein.  And go to Whole Foods and get another couple of chickens when I start to run low.

Exercise was pretty good this week.  I worked out 5 days.  The new schedule with my trainer where I do 3 sets in a row instead of doing the circuit is working better for me I think.  It seems like more of a weight workout than before.  My heart rate doesn’t get as high but I don’t need it to.  I have my cardio days for that.

From a weight standpoint I’m up a couple of pounds from Monday.  I don’t think it is “real” weight gain as weight has fluctuated a lot this week.  I think my body is still adjusting the the higher protein and the changes in my weight workout.  I don’t have to weigh in until October so I’m not worried about it.


Low Blood Sugar and Exercise

On Monday, I had what I think was an episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) after exercise.  This is apparently common in people with diabetes.  I don’t have diabetes, but I am insulin resistant and do have elevated blood sugar at times.

Monday I went to training.  I did the elliptical to warm up and then went to do strength training with my trainer.  On several exercises, we upped the weight so it was a little more intense than usual.  I do this as a circuit where I do one set of each exercise, usually with no rest between exercises except walking to each place.  I had my heart rate monitor on and I usually will stop and rest 30 seconds or so if my heart rate is above 140 or so.

On Monday, I noticed that I soon felt really tired.  Resting for 30 seconds or a minute to get my heart rate down didn’t help.  I also started feeling shaky and nauseated.  Finally, about halfway through the third set of exercises, I told my trainer that I was done.  I went out to the reception area where my husband was waiting for me.  Normally, we then go out to the car.  But, I felt like I couldn’t possibly walk out to the car.  I sat down at the table and my heart rate quickly came down.  But, that didn’t help.  I still felt shaky and nauseated and was worried that I would faint.

At some point, I realized that my symptoms would fit with what I had heard about as low blood sugar.  I’ve never really experienced it to that extent before, but it seemed to fit.  I recalled that I hadn’t eaten much that morning.  I had a Kind bar about 3 hours before exercising (about 15g of carbs).  Then, right before we went to the Y I had a cheese stick (no carbs) and a small piece of dark chocolate (9g of carbs).  At that point, once I thought about that, I had my husband go to the vending machine and he got me a Zbar which had 12g of carbs.  A little after eating that, I started feeling better.

While I can’t be entirely sure, I think my problem was low blood sugar.  While I don’t eat totally low carb, I do eat lower carb than most people.  I usually end up averaging about 100g of carbs a day (70 or 80 net carbs).  I think I need to pay attention to my carbs before exercising particularly on the more intense days when I am seeing the trainer.

I read some articles about eating before exercise for people with diabetes, which gave me some ideas.  So, this morning I tested my blood glucose when I got up.  It was at 94.  Then I had a Quest bar (chocolate cookie dough for breakfast) for breakfast.  Then, right before leaving for the Y I had a sandwich.  I used 2 pieces of 100% wholegrain sprouted grain bread (28g of carbs) with 2 ounces of turkey and a piece of Weight Watcher pepper jack cheese.  Normally I wouldn’t eat that much carbs early in the day (I often go a week or two without eating any bread, although I do sometimes eat it and do eat some other grains).  When we got to the Y, my blood sugar was at 124, which made sense given what I had eaten.

I went in, did the elliptical and then did my training session.  I did not feel awful during it.  A couple of times my heart rate went over 140 and I rested for 30 seconds or so, but all went well.  When it was over, I didn’t feel nauseated or awful.  I did test my blood sugar, which was just over an hour after I had had the sandwich.  My blood sugar was 90.

Blood sugar

That is actually really low for having eaten a sandwich an hour before.  So this really reflects how much exercise had lowered my blood sugar. I knew that exercise lowers blood sugar and diabetics are often told to exercise to help control blood sugar. I just hadn’t thought that it might lower blood sugar so much that I might become hypoglycemic.  If my blood sugar was 90 today after having about 30g of carbs at lunch, then it was probably much lower on Monday when I had had much lower carbs that morning than today I had 26 Monday including breakfast, versus 52 today including breakfast. From a net carb standpoint (carbs less fiber) it was 17 Monday versus 30 today.  So, chances are my blood sugar on Monday was well below 90 when I got finished exercising and may have gone below 70 to hypoglycemia.

And, I do remember there have been some times that I’ve finished at the Y and felt shaky and a little sick but never as bad as this last Monday.  I suspect that was on days when I hadn’t eaten much.  So, I’ll be watching this much more carefully going forward.

Personal Training Update


I started personal training on May 11 and have had 15 sessions.  I do 2 sessions a week unless something changes it (once the Y was closed, once I was sick, and so on).  I do 30 minute sessions.  When possible, I do a third session on my own on the weekend.

Overall, I’ve been happy with the results.  Early on, the trainer and I did not see entirely eye to eye.  I wanted to do a whole body workout each time and do the same exercises each time unless there was a reason to change them.  He wanted to mix things up a bit more each week.  We worked it out, though, and things have been going smoothly for awhile now.

I have changed a few exercises, but most of the changes have been increasing weight.  There are some exercises where I’ve gone up a lot.  This is mostly exercises where I started out really weak, such as the chest press machine.  I’ve gone up a lot, but still have a long way to go.  Other exercises I haven’t changed that much, particularly the ones were I started out stronger than other areas (such as the leg press).

I started out doing 7 exercises (3 sets) and have worked  my way up to 10 as I got faster.  I am doing it as a circuit to maximize my time and I’ve been happy with that at this point.

Have I made progress?  Yes.  Overall, I am stronger.  I’ve increased the weights anywhere from a little to a lot.  Most are closer to “a lot” than otherwise.

On the other hand, I can’t really see a difference. I’ve lost about 3.6 pounds since I started which isn’t a huge amount.  But, I’m not doing this so much to help with my weight loss as to improve strength and work on body composition.   I am not yet seeing much difference, but I can tell that I am stronger.  I think the main reason for this is that I still have a lot of excess body fat and I started as such as a low level of muscle that it will be awhile before much will be visible. As long as I keep increasing the weights that I use, though, I know I am making progress.

I recently signed up for another 12 sessions.  One thing I did think about was whether to switch to hour long sessions (I would do one a week with  the trainer) or possible doing one upper body 30 minute session and one lower body 30 minute sessions with the trainer and then do two more by myself.  I talked to him about it, and he recommended keeping things as they are for awhile.  I’ll reevaluate at the end of this set of sessions.

Is the trainer worth it?  Yes.  Obviously, he helps me with selecting the exercises to do and makes sure that I do them correctly.  That is all valuable.  But, the greatest value to me is that knowing I have an appointment set with the trainer keeps me going to the session and working hard.  I wouldn’t YMfrivolously not go to a session.  I haven’t cancelled unless it was really necessary.  I’m not sure I would be as diligent if I was just relying on myself.