Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The MAX Muscle Plan book review

What's a gal like me doing reading a book so obviously tailored to men? Trying to get all their secrets, duh! Just kidding. However, I do want to get all "their" weight-training advice. Much of what is written specifically for women doesn't cover serious weight training and I'm done playing games with fitness. I want to be strong! Brad Shoenfeld's The MAX Muscle Plan: Blast Through Training Plateus for Your Best Body Ever is detailed 12-week program intended to up the ante for experienced lifters. For those new(er) to lifting, Brad includes a break-in routine to be repeated as necessary, as well as a complete pictorial how-to catalog on every exercise utilized in the program.

Brad's book explains the science of mass-building and provides a method to gain maximum muscle size while being entirely drug free. In fact, the only supplements the author promotes are nothing more than whey protein and fruit juice! It is fascinating to see how complex and hard it is for a man to build lean muscle bulk once he has passed the beginner to intermediate stage. Building strength is much simpler than building that coveted size. When Brad explains how integral testosterone is to muscle growth and maximum size, it's patently obvious that as a woman, I have nothing to fear! I will never, ever be big no matter how much I lift. How comforting.

I'm not yet ready to try the routine, but it's just the thing for Bodybuilding Boy. He read the book and set off and is now at the end of the program. Here's my man working out in the program:

dumbell incline fly

Here's what he has to say about it:

Q. Why did you decide to give the MAX Muscle Plan a try?
  A. You recommended it [Oh. I guess there's a first time for everything, LOL]
Q. What's your favorite aspect of this program?
  A. The diversification in the workouts
Q. What did you dislike about this program?
  A. Didn't explain anything about warm-ups for the routines
Q. Where did you have trouble with the plan, if at all?
  A. Supersets - no room in the gym to work them as prescribed
Q. What surprised you?
  A. Nothing [I guess that means it works as expected, ha ha]
Q. What did you expect to find, that wasn't included?
  A. Just the warm-ups.
Q. Who would you recommend this book to?
  A. Anyone trying to gain some muscle mass

As you can see, he's not into interviews. Too bad, because he's typically talkative, especially about training! I suppose that oppositional side preferred not to talk precisely because I wanted him to. Ah, well. So I give you what I observed about his round with the MAX Muscle Plan:

  • He did get results beyond what he expected. 
  • While the routine charts are set out with most of the details, we still found it necessary to review details included in the intros for each program (such as when to superset or double-drop set, etc) and scribble those notes onto copies we made for him to carry in the gym. 
  • He insisted he didn't need all the unloading (i.e. "active rest") weeks in the program and did end up overtraining. Ha! That's definitely proof it's an intense plan if nothing else.
  • It takes planning to follow this plan.
  • The final phase is TIME CONSUMING. Be prepared to rearrange your schedule. 

While I work myself up to trying the routine in a few years or so, I think I'll check out Brad's books for women and see if they're as hardcore as I hope they'll be.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Barefoot run in 40-degree weather at 10:45 PM! Gaaah!!! What was I thinking?

Actually I was thinking, "This is easy. This is...FUN!"

I had promised myself that my barefoot running drills would take place outdoors as soon spring hit, and now it has. It's not as warm as I had hoped. How I decided to run literally barefoot, not just in minimalist wear, is another story. This story is Sunday's run: 1.5 mile tempo run, injury-free, mostly on a sidewalk with a bit of chip-seal pavement a patch of grass thrown in at the turn. The way the day played out just made my run impossible to accomplish during daylight. I had mapped out my route in the neighorhood and set up my app to clock it, then begged hubster to keep me company because while I may be crazy enough to run barefoot at night in the cold, I'm not that crazy that I'd go it alone. As he was hardly interested in taking a freezing jaunt, I told him he could compromise and keep me company by slowly coasting down the street in the car. (Hey, it was a hybrid car running on all electric! It wasn't too unhealthy, really!) Well, anyone might've thought he was a creep as he crawled along with the windows down, calling out, "Dang you look hot!" and other such encouragement as he could think of. I began to wonder if we'd turned the tables and I'd have to protect him from a zealous good citizen... It was all over in 14 minutes. I wanted to keep running but being as cold as it was, I was afraid to overdo it and not feel any foot strain/pain. I'm happy to report that I felt absolutely nothing in my feet the next day, just the happy feeling in my heart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The morning caffeine ritual is one I just never fell into -- that is, until REBBL. 

REBBL is not coffee. It's a tonic 'tea,' a blend of long-steeped, cold-brewed herbs bottled in glass. Following Not For Sale on Facebook, and the launch of the product through Causes.com, where Not For Sale had video updates on the creation and ideology of the beverage (click to watch!) In short, it's a beverage intended to be beneficial for the environment, those in the growing/harvesting regions, and for the consumer. 

When I ordered the first shipment of Hibiscus Mint, I fell in love on first sip. So did my husband. So did my kids -- which is hard, because there is natural caffeine from the Guayusa leaf. A little caffeine goes a long way, so we all enjoy this early in the day.

I also learned -- through REBBL's label -- of Runa's fair-trade Guayusa leaf for brewing hot. It's so scrumptious! 

what's not to love?!
my drink of choice at the office

Not For Sale has just launched two new varieties  one featuring green tea and the other with black tea. This month I have the Forest Berry Black Tea, which is not bitter at all. It has a strong berry-mint flavor from its primary herbs. It also contains extracts of reishi, eleuthero, and elder, which are different from the herbs contained in Hibiscus Mint Guayusa. It's safe to say I love this one just as well as the first. I find that each day I am hungry for one or the other, and it seems to depend on how I'm feeling. I've found these to be great before a run or workout as they contain bot caffeine and some simple sugar. The organic sugar is cut with stevia leaf, which I find I don't taste in this. Usually I can't stand stevia extracts in beverages. These drinks are an exception because I don't detect it at all -- maybe because it's brewed with the leaf, instead of a powdered or patented extract?

REBBL is sold through www.rebbltonic.com
For the new varities, you have to call Amanda Buthe at the number listed on the site. Amanda is so sweet and helpful, though. Some retailers in California are carrying the beverage. I can't wait until it's sold local to me so I don't have to wait for my monthly order.

It is expensive. But it's worth it, for so many reasons. I hope you get REBBLious like me and give it a try!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hooked by the Hoop

Hoop dancing is my preferred form of "cardio." But it is seems too much fun to be called exercise, I think. I was first introduced to hoop dancing as an adult through a mommies group, in a workshop of safe exercise for expectant, postpartum and new mothers.

first try: me and my second giving it a whirl

I didn't know it was an art form for adults, both men and women. I always thought the hoop was for kids, and as a child I wasn't very good at it -- at all. So when I did the research and saw what it could be, I was in. Or at least, I wanted to be. It took me over a year from my first attempt to actually ordering my hoop and practicing every day. Now I am officially a fan and every day I enjoy it more than the day before. Firstborn is five years old and taught himself to waist hoop in a day. (I'm jealous!) He takes his own hoop and eagerly performs for any friends and family available, impatiently waiting for his "turn" when I'm practicing. Could it get any better? Yes, it does!

a grown-up gal's hoop from Hoop Mamas

In addition to DVDs, I use YouTube for inspiration. Just yesterday I stumbled upon an article about hooping combined with yoga. Oh, my, if that isn't a glorious idea, I don't know what is! Somehow I never thought to combine those two pursuits, because hooping can be such a raucous, hilariously fun activity, and yoga speaks to me of stillness. Combing those two loves will be so much fun, and I have a new goal to pursue. Whoever thinks "fitness" and cardio is boring needs to try hoop dancing and let the wild child loose. . .

[Transformation: I love this woman's video!!]

[hoop dance + yoga. Do you see the joy on her face?!]

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Music Playlist: In Memorium, In Congratulation

Music. It pulses in the gym, streams through the home, trickles through earbuds on the run. My childhood friend released an album today with his band, T.E.A., "In Balance With This Life, This Death." 

This is life, the music of right now, music to which I'll practice hoop dance. I find it poetic that in "Balance With This Life," less than two weeks ago we mourned the passing of another musician and beloved family member, an accomplished performer in another era as guitarist and vocalist in The Three Chuckles.

In honor of Tommy Romano's life and accomplishments, and in celebration of Matthew LaPointe's debut album, I present the work of my friends:

Tommy Romano playing, "Cinnamon Sinner,"

Matthew LaPointe, "Clock Hands"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wedding and Anniversary

Last Monday, Bodybuilder Boy and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Here's us, then:

Saturday, we attended a friend's wedding. Here's me, now:

The pictures might not be telling you this, but after 7 years and two babies I'm proud to say I'm in better shape than when I got married!! Not just stronger, but a little bit thinner!

I have to say that marriage has done me good in more ways than one. James, you are my ceaseless cheerleader! Thank you for supporting me in everything I do. You have my love and my thanks, always.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weight-ing In

I've been reading Stuart McRobert's The Insider's Tell-All On Weight-Training Technique. I am definitely a newbie in the weightlifting scene, and figure I might as well get a good foundation. McRobert recommends that a trainee start off by actually weighing the plates and bars in a gym, and jot it all down in a training notebook. From gym-to-gym, brand-to-brand, piece-to-piece within the gym, he says to check it all. Hmmm. At first blush I thought him crazy: he  also suggests bringing a level, tape-measure, and chalk to check that the floor surface is level, mark off my body's best position, etc. in addition to checking the weights' accuracy. (Obsessive, anyone?) But after some thinking, it seems to me that if I were a man squatting over 300 lbs, the equipment being crooked or off-level could potentially make difference in technique or ability. Then again, I certainly don't know what that's like. I decided to play out his advice by measuring our mix-and-match dumbells. Why not?

I discovered that one brand of handles and collars together weighed nearly 5 lbs, unloaded. The plates were each over by 1 or 2 oz, and when all was put together it totaled exactly 20 lbs, though by the plates' markings it was 15 lbs. The other brand of bar with just spring clamps loaded weighed 1 lb even. So I could put the same plates on one bar for 16 lb, or on the other for 20 lb. HUGE difference for a little gal like me. I knew the one was heavier but never realized how much. With all the measurements I wrote down, I'm able to mix and match what I'm curling, to progress in a more graduated fashion. I'm happy about that.

The boys thought everything about my project was a heap of fun.  Toddler thought it should all be thrown, so together we practiced gently putting the weights on and off the scales. Kindergartner practiced reading the numbers and setting the scale to zero, scribbling down the measurements. He wanted to use his funky calculator to add up the numbers. We spent a good hour playing around with the scales, weights, and calculator, and in the end our little exercise turned into a lesson for both me and my boys not only in math, but in the importance of precision and recording information. (Again with that theme!) I'm glad I took McRobert's advice.