Fat, middle-aged woman with heart disease really wants to train for strength
I very much want to get stronger, but as per the title, I'm probably not the best candidate!
The heart disease is probably the biggie. I'm not looking for medical advice, but I'd love to hear if anybody else is in a similar situation. I had ACS a few years ago and had a stent put in at the time. Since then I sometimes get angina, but it's not related to exercise (it's usually in the night), and the angiogram I had a few years ago was clear. I've never had high blood pressure. I feel it's important for me to get strong and fit.
Being fat is something I'm dealing with and I've been losing weight. I'm well into the obese category (200lb at 5' 3", used to be even bigger) and my body fat scales have me at a scary 57% body fat. I read on here that it's not possible to build strength while on a calorie deficit. Is that true? Can I only do one thing at a time (strength training or weight loss)? I'm reluctant to put off strength training as I'm planning on losing weight slowly over the next year or two. I'm aware that due to my age (48), I'm already losing muscle. I was hoping that strength training could combat the muscle loss I might experience with dieting and age, and also improve my strength and balance.
I have "Starting Strength", the Stronglifts programme and "New Rules of Lifting for Women". New Rules seems complicated, and I prefer the exercises in the other two. I've been trying them out with weights at home along with my teenage son and have booked a session at a gym where I hope they'll check our form. I am scared to deadlift! The weights I've been lifting are low (especially on the overhead press. I really struggle with that one). However, I feel great afterwards! I would really love to do this.
I do also have slight joint problems, with knee, hip and lower back pain and I'm a little bit hypermobile. However, because the weight lifting exercises are controlled and not twisting, I think they should help my joints rather than make them worse. My knees are noisy during squats but feel fine afterwards.
Is there anyone else in a similar situation and how do you manage it? One person I spoke to at a gym suggested that I use slightly lower weights and higher repetitions (e.g. 10 instead of 5).
This is a widespread conventional viewpoint and the person you spoke to would probably say the same thing to a HS athlete or a thirty something office worker.
Originally Posted by Vale
Edit: To be clear this person is well intended but wrong. The low weight, high rep scheme is not how one gets strong. It's a prevalent view but quite ineffective for getting novices strong.
Regarding your personal situation, please read Dr. Sully's Big Medicine article to get a grounding on the application of strength training, and barbell training in particular, for compromised populations. I'm not a medical professional so I can't/won't touch on your heart issues other than to say that you must coordinate any new training within the guidelines set out by your Docs. Keep in mind, though, that many doctors don't know squat (heh) about strength training and many are of a mind to tell you to do nothing physical and just take your pills. If you are able to lift you will see awesome results in body composition, well being and overall positive attitude not just from getting stronger but because of the confidence that comes with your new found strength. I hope that you can do so.
Last edited by bob g; 06-03-2012 at 10:09 AM.
Welcome to the board! No medical advice here, but I think I'm one of the older women around (soon to be 45). My dad had a fatal heart attack at 49, and I avoid doctors at all costs, thus having no medical info to impart other then regualrly checking my blood pressure which is always normal.
Those New Rules of Lifting plans are complicated, aren't they? I read both that and SS 2 before starting and preferred the simplicity of Rip's plan. I started with the 35lb bar to figure out form about two years ago, and took breaks to go skiing, train for a run, stuff like that and continued to lift when not on the breaks. I increase to weight-load more slowly then recomended by the book, and reset when I think it's a good idea or after the flu and what-not. If I had to do high-reps on a consistent basis I probably wouldn't lift at all to be honest, it doesn't appeal.
It's been a gratifying thing for me as well as a great way to combat middle-age flat butt syndrome. You sound ready to go so I hope you get the green-light from the doctor.
I'd strongly suggest you send your form critique requests to the technique forum in youtube form. The guys here would know more than most.
Other than that, take it slow and learn to listen to your body, discern whats feels right and wrong.
Good luck, I'd say you'd reap the benefits of strength training quite quickly.
My understanding is (and someone more experienced correct me if I'm wrong) that in the novice stages it is certainly possible to lose weight and gain strength at the same time. Ignore the gym person who said higher reps and don't be afraid to deadlift, they're my favourite exercise! Be careful with the PT session you booked, they may not actually know the correct form for the big lifts, if they do end up being useless, analyse the book and post some form checks.
This forum is an excellent resource, welcome!
An obese middle-aged female with coronary artery disease needs to get strong. If her doctor says she is good to go for "exercise" she is good to go. (He doesn't have to know what kind of exercise, and probably doesn't care. She could tell him, but chances are he doesn't know shite from shinola when it comes to exercise physiology, and he may be part of that benighted population of physicians who think Weight Lifting Ain't Nachrul. Doctors can be real dumbfucks. Ask me how I know.)
She needs to read the book and start lifting. Having an SS coach would be ideal, but not mandatory. She should start at low weights, do the program, add more weight. If she eats reasonably (no GOMAD for her) she will lose body fat as her body composition starts to change. She shouldn't worry about weight loss too much at first. That will come naturally, as she grows muscle tissue. Muscles are furnaces. They burn calories. After a few months she can add Prowler, sprints or bike intervals for conditioning and added fat burning. She will discontinue exercise if she has severe anginal chest pain or associated symptoms (nausea, diaphoresis, dyspnea, syncope), and seek medical attention. But she's likely to have less angina, not more, as time goes by.
Oh, and she needs to start a training log here on the forum. This pays HUGE dividends.
That is what I would tell an obese middle-aged female with cad. That, and Godspeed.
This post is for instructional and illustrative purposes only and does not represent formal medical advice to a patient for any condition or therapy. So don't get any big ideas. Yo momma.
Last edited by Jonathon Sullivan; 06-03-2012 at 02:11 PM.
Reason: Discleaimer amended to include mandatory "Yo Momma" language.
You neglected to include the "Yo Momma" addendum.
Originally Posted by Sullydog
Originally Posted by bob g
I'd just like to second the comments on doing the program. Sadly, unless you are extremely fortunate the people at the gym won't really be able to help you with form.
Also, you most certainly can get stronger while losing weight. This is the amazing thing about being a novice. Someday you will not be a novice and you'll join the rest of us trying to figure out how to be "optimal" when it comes to your goals (for some it's lifting houses, for others it's visible abz, general health, etc). Enjoy being a novice because we go round and round about the other stuff looking for any little way to cheat genetics.
Iirc, it's muscle that you can't build while losing weight (i.e. on a caloric deficit) for very long.
As far as gym people. You really have to take their advice with many grains of salt.