Selena Deckelmann's blog

Things I've learned from my personal trainer

posted on May 23, 2014
tags: weight lifting
categories: personal

I've been seeing a personal trainer for the last couple of years. I injured my back pretty seriously 5-6 years ago, and finally admitted that I had a "real problem" that required doctor and other professional intervention. After x-rays and a couple months more of denial, I started an exercise program focused on weight training.

Previously, my main (and sometimes only) exercise had been running. The back problem I have caused my doctor to recommend that I never run again. At first this was an easy thing to do because running was incredibly painful. Later, I realized that running was not only a fitness thing for me, but also an important part of my mental health. I really needed another way to get in a lot of exercise.

I go to the gym 3 times a week, and I try to walk about 5 miles a day at least 3 additional days a week. Playing Ingress, and bird watching tend to make this pretty easy.

I'm now 7-months pregnant, and I still do both things. I typically don't get any 10k days in like I did before I was pregnant, but apart from some grueling travel I did in April, I've been able to keep it up the entire time.

I've threatened to give a talk about this, but rather than wait to assemble all of this until then, I thought it would be nice to just write it down in the event it helps someone else!

My physical activity background:

I did first ballet, then karate and judo as a child. I never played any ball or team sports, and did not learn to swim other than barely keep myself afloat until I was an adult. In high school, I ran cross country for three seasons. Mostly I played the violin, at least 2 hours a day sometimes up to 5 hours a day, which is a physically tiring activity, but not aerobic (usually). I also hiked and backpacked with my family. I was able to run a 7-7:30 minute mile until a couple years after I graduated from college. In general, I thought of myself as a pretty fit person, and ran slower because no coach was yelling at me and no competitors were chasing me as I got older. The last time I seriously "trained" was for a marathon I ended up not running in about 2005. I got myself up to 18 miles and then just cycled about 8 miles a day to and from work for many years.

So, by the time I decided to get a trainer I was not in very good shape.

Here's the stuff that I learned right away:

So what are the kinds of facts that I wish I would have known earlier in my life?

Anyway, so that's the stuff that I know now. I have said to myself that I wished I would have gotten into weight lifting earlier in life. But, to be honest, I don't know that I would have been that into it without an enthusiastic teacher and a group of people encouraging me to do it. Now, I feel pretty good about independent physical activity, and I can afford to pay someone to help me stay on track.

I'm also extremely fortunate to be able to continue to lift while I'm quite pregnant. I've dramatically reduced the weight I lift for squats and deadlifts, after my doctor freaked out and told me I really shouldn't be lifting so much.

If I ever get pregnant again, I might try to do some research and figure out what my real limits should be on this. Some current wisdom on this says that you should only do lifts that work your abdominals and lower body at about 60% of your max while pregnant. I have no idea where that comes from, and sincerely wish there was more than just hearsay and fear related to lifting while pregnant. There's of course a lot of documentation of how bad injuries to a woman's pelvic floor can be while pregnant, so there's real science backing up the urge for caution. But if you're otherwise very strong, I'm not sure that the freakouts about specific weight are warranted (if you're healthy and not trying to achieve personal bests :D) any more than freaking out about women running until they give birth is called for.

I've been also thinking about the ways in which gym discipline has affected how I think about teaching and programming, but that's a topic for another post!


Have some feedback? Corrections? Ideas for other posts? Contact me @selenamarie.