I don't know where to start!

DaivaSimone Posts: 657 Member
Hi gals!

I am planning on starting heavy lifting next week and I have a few questions before starting my program.

1) I've lost 40 pounds since april, but I have 60 more pounds to go in 2015. I want to start lifting now because I want to look more toned (and I think that it will help with all the skin issues), but I don't know how to manage eating at a 750 cals deficit and having recovery days. I don't want to slow down my weight loss (not until I've reached "onderland"), but I also expect to have good result with the lifting process. Is it possible?

2) I've read the program and the summary in here, but I've also read the New Rules of Lifting For Women, and I'm kinda wondering which program would be a better start. I am more inclined toward Stronglifts, but I read earlier today in some threads that SL is not a real beginner program. Do you have some thoughts about this?

3) I actually do light cardio 4-5 times a week (45 min. of aerobics at medium intensity, which result in about 300 cals burn), and I know that I will probably have to reduce the frequency of these workouts. In summer, I usually do a lot of biking (like, 90-105 min. of biking 5 times a week), as I use my bike to go to work. Will it be sustainable with whatever program of lifting I will choose?

Thanks four your answers, it will be appreciated!


  • Hi and Welcome!!!!

    1) Congrats on the 40 lbs. That's awesome! I'd definitely say start lifting now -- everyone I've ever talked to about lifting has said they wished they'd started earlier, so just go for it! As for continuing the weight loss, I have found that I can eat way more than I would expect, hit my lifts, and am still losing an average of a pound a week (pre-holidays).

    Personally, I've been conducting a bit of an experiment to try to find that caloric sweet spot where I can increase the weight on the bar while still losing from my body -- it's taking some time, but it's worth it. I'm 5'4", do minimal cardio (i.e. leisurely walks with my dog), lift 3x / week, and lose weight eating about 1650 cals per day -- which feels like a lot to me. (Others may disagree.)

    Do know that you'll have to ignore the scale for a few weeks, because it will go a little beserk at first (water retention, etc.), but after that it should even out. Also, be sure to take measurements and pics when you start, because lots of folks have big changes there even when the scale doesn't move.

    2) I am one of those that thinks 5x5 is a great beginner program. I love the simplicity of SL -- NROWLFW was way more complicated than I wanted. As long as you're diligent about form -- watch videos from trusted sources, read books and articles (I really like "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe), and/or get help from friends or a PT for a few sessions -- you should be fine.

    3) There are definitely some women in this group who bike to and from work (I'm looking at you Canadianlbs!), so they'll have more to say here. But I would think if it's already part of your regular routine, you'll probably be OK adding the lifting without too much trouble. It may affect how quickly you can progress after a little while, but there's no reason why that should deter you. Many of us "stall" on lifts and just keep plugging along -- still getting stronger, still adding muscle, still doing what we need to do, just not adding 5 lbs. a session.

    Which reminds me -- there definitely comes a time when adding 5 lbs. to the upper body lifts (and 10 lbs. to deadlifts) gets to be more than most of us can handle. You may want to invest in a set of fractional plates (a pair of 1.25 lbs.) if your gym doesn't have them. They've been a lifesaver for me.

    And come by the check-in thread and let us know how it's going!

    :) Courtney
  • canadianlbs
    canadianlbs Posts: 5,199 Member
    hey daiva. nice that you're here, and yeah - do come report in the daily thread, whatever option you choose.

    - i chose sl for reasons i think i gave recently in a different thread, but in tl;dr form: it was the simplest protocol, and that worked best for me. i think it's common that at a certain point people start adding accessory work or diversifying, but it seems like for most of us, that one's a matter of 'when the time comes, you'll know.' because you'll start to think about it all on your own. so i wouldn't sweat it too much at this point. experiment or explore until you find something that's working well for you now, and let three-months-from-now worry about itself. meanwhile, if you hang out here, you'll pick up lots of info and context and grist for those thoughts ;-)

    - on lift-and-lose . . . well, my mileage might be specific to me. i did start out doing both, and i did lose weight while i was eating at a deficit. but i didn't progress very far with my strength, although i did get stronger than i had been starting out. on the other hand, i was also learning as i went, and i think my form is way better now than it was even two months ago, so that could have been a factor as well. basically, i found that i can lift while i'm restricting my calories, but i can't lift very much.

    - on the other hand though: i lost weight when restricting and regained it when i got bored with all that and just ate whatever. at this point, after about 6 weeks of that approach, i weigh about the same now as i did when i started lifting. but i definitely started to get stronger and shift more weight in that time, and that's tranlated into growing more muscle so afaik there's been a net fat loss anyway. people call that 'recomposition' - replacing one kind of mass with another, without changing your overall weight very much.

    - i bike around 7km each way, currently. originally i was riding closer to 12km twice a day, an extension of the same route. what i've found overall with lift-plus-bike is that i can do both but i haven't really ever gotten straight a's in them both. it's more like i'll get a's in one, but the other will be a b or b-minus instead. if i lift seriously, i use up most of my glycogen stores, and apparently it takes anything from 12 hours to two days to replenish fully. so when i lift every other day, the riding in between tends to be of the steady-state, fat-burning type, not the explosive sprint type. my lungs might be up for it but my muscles just don't have the gas. in my own experience, it's been the lifting that knocks riding over the head, more than the other way round, but my observations are of limited value since i keep changing all the variables around.
  • DawnEmbers
    DawnEmbers Posts: 2,451 Member
    My turn... :smile:

    I am doing stronglifts while on a deficit and have since I started. First official lift day was 11-17, though I joined the gym at the end of October and did some bench and what not between joining and fully deciding on stronglifts. I haven't seen an increase on the scale but I've gotten my bench to 80, squat to 130 and deadlift to an (accidental) 155. I'm seeing a stall now on a few lifts but it's been pretty good so far even though some days I only get 1300 calories (I try to get more on lifting days but some days I struggle to eat enough). I lost 5 lbs in December even with the holidays. I have lost 30 since end of August and still have 30 more just to get out of the "obese" category. I don't have a complete final goal yet but am seeing how things feel as I get to the lower weights I haven't seen since teen years or younger.

    Cardio - I found that I like doing treadmill after lifting instead of before. I don't tend to try running on my lifting days though. I save that for a cardio day when I squeeze them into my work schedule. But I do plan to eventually train for a 5k once I have a better idea which one I'm going to take part in, when and where.

    And I like SL because it's pretty straight forward, though the progression is a challenge. NROL4W is the book I'm reading but it recommends a specific nutrition plan along with variations of workouts with many that I'd never heard of before. I might try it, once I've done SL to the point where I want to shake things up, but I'm not sure yet. There is also a group for that with information if you want to see how others have done.
  • @Dawn - 30 since the end of August?! I'm so jealous!
  • Welcome Davia!

    1) Congratulations on your weight loss and best wishes for your 2015 goals! You can lift on a deficit, you just might not progress as much with lifting more weight. However, it's beneficial to do so because you'll retain a lot more muscle than if you did no strength training and building it later is much harder than keeping what you have. 5x5 starts low which will give you time to get a feel for it.

    2) Both are good beginner programs. I started with New Rules but quickly switched to SL because I didn't like how the program changed as soon as I started progressing with the lifts and I found there were too many exercises per session. It's a really good read, though, so I would suggest covering it whether or not you do the workouts. New Rules actually helped me find SL because I loved doing squats and deadlifts with the program and it made me want to focus on the basic compound lifts.

    SL is fine for beginners as long as you start low (even if it feels too easy), progress slowly, and study form. The app now contains videos of doing the exercises properly so watch them and practice with no weight. As @crabada mentioned above, Starting Strength is also a great resource for figuring out form.

    3) Light cardio along with SL is fine but you may need to cut back on the sessions per week to fit in lifting thrice per week. Keep biking to work and for fun as it's part of your normal activity and doing other activities you enjoy. If you find yourself failing on lifts frequently, which can be physically and mentally exhausting, re-evaluate what you're doing.

    You don't have to build your schedule for the next few months now and never change it. You can start lifting and tweak as necessary. None of us got it right the first time and many of us are still making changes as we go.

  • arrrrjt
    arrrrjt Posts: 245 Member
    I find weight loss with lifting very hard to balance (have plateau'd since maybe October...) eating at, say, a 500 cal deficit, and the gains physically haven't been as much as I would like - I'm looking at you, DL. Any lower than 500 calories and my lifts suck. Really trying to up my protein and see if that helps fill me up so I'm not starving most of the time. But in the beginning you should be ok, I think. I'm hoping to bike to work as well this year. I'm sure hoping my lifting will still fit in, but who knows!
  • DawnEmbers
    DawnEmbers Posts: 2,451 Member
    crabada wrote: »
    @Dawn - 30 since the end of August?! I'm so jealous!


    Well, I kind of started at random. I turned 30 at then end of August, noticed a sign up for a 5k charity walk at work, decided to try. My mom helped me get more food since I'm still struggling financially on my own, so I got a good start with having meats and stuff again in my apartment. Walked to see if I could, figured I'd walk a couple days a week, ended up walking every day. And things progressed from there.

    Most of it has been the deficit, though working out is certainly helping. I still eat candy a couple times a week, I just make sure it's one serving and not the whole box (though it's sad that 11 dots is considered 1 serving as far as theater candy goes). Have a ways to go still but I am .6 from my lowest weight I reached 10 ish years ago on weight watchers. Now to move to the unknown territory. Plus, it's more fun having all of the fitness goals to focus on like trying to bench 90 lbs some day or learning to do a power clean. :D
  • I love your story @DawnEmbers! So awesome to have almost reached your lowest.
  • Yes, the fitness goals are so much more fun than the "I have to lose 45 lbs." goals. :)
  • DaivaSimone
    DaivaSimone Posts: 657 Member
    edited January 2015
    Wow! First of all, thanks for all the detailed and honest answers, it is really appreciated (even if I was kinda caught in the NYE marathon and did not have the time to respond before). ;)

    What I am learning from all your answers is that if weight loss is still my priority for 2015 (which is the case), I will have to set lower expectations on my lifting performance. That's ok for me. I want to be strong, and I want to be toned and defined and everything, but while I am in the "obese" category, losing weight is still the way to go to conquer my health. I'll try to be reasonable and to take this first round of Stronglifts as a way to learn my form, to progress in the weight room and to be more familiar with the heavy lifting stuff, without pressuring me with my probably slow progress. Still, as I am currently eating about 1850 cals with a 750 cals deficit, I may increase my calorie goal a little to be able to complete the challenge. I'll see how's everything going.

    So I'll definitely start with Stronglifts. I read again the program of NROLFW and it's definitely not straightforward enough for me.

    As for the cardio, I'll probably reduce from 5 times a week to 3, so that will leave me with a full day of rest.

    I have other fitness goals I want to achieve this year (like comepeting in a running challenge at work and completing a 100k ride on my bike), but lifting is definitely the thing I wanted to do for a while, and it's time to start doing it. I will go to the gym near my office on monday, and I will sign up (ewww, I will look like one of those resolutioners). I'm glad I've made this decision!
  • canadianlbs
    canadianlbs Posts: 5,199 Member
    that all sounds like a solid call, and more importantly one that you feel comfortable with. one advantage that you have while you're at this early point is: if you're planning to lose 30 pounds then your muscles are *already* 30 pounds' worth of stronger than they might be by the time that you're done, just from walking around all the time. so a) by lifting now even just at a maintenance level, you're holding onto that great advantage you already have, and b) so long as you're maintaining the muscle you have now, then as you lose weight your proportion of strength-to-your-own-body-weight will increase.

    if that makes sense, i don't feel like i'm expressing it well. but i know how it felt when i started out riding to work again, compared with the way that it felt when i was 20 pounds lighter, about a year after that :D
  • TheMOC
    TheMOC Posts: 74 Member
    I consider SL to be a great beginner's program because it spells everything out for you. If you get the smartphone ap, it literally does all the programming work for you. You start the workout on day 1 doing what the ap says. There are instructional videos if you don't know how to do a lift, as well as an FAQ. Record your progress, and it will tell you what to do next time. So simple.