Training Germaine

For the past 10 weeks, I have had the pleasure of training one of the most determined and hard working women I have ever met. She isn’t an athlete. She is not a figure competitor. She is not an on-and-off trainee, someone who tries it for a little while, cancels a few times and then finally decides it’s too much work and goes back to the good ole’ elliptical. She is none of these. She is a woman just like you (or your wife, sister, friend). Her goal? Lose 60 pounds. Get her body back. Gain more confidence. Take the stairs without having to stop to catch her breath. Stop feeling bad about the weight she has gained over the years. Feel better. Be stronger.

Before she began training with me, Germaine was taking Spinning classes at least four or five days a week, as well as Yoga once or twice. She had lost some weight, but was extremely frustrated that with all the cycling she was doing, the numbers were not budging. Climbing the stairs was still hard on her, despite the fact that she was taking a 50 minute Spinning class a day; sometimes twice a day. Her weightlifting routine included a few bicep curls here and there. She had no idea what to do, so she never really bothered with it much. Cycling was more enjoyable for her and all the calories she was “burning” during the class had to mean something, right? Wrong.

She started talking to me about my training regimen, and listened to me preach about the benefits of squatting, deadlifting and pressing.  How women need to train with real weight, how much stronger she would get, how much smaller she would become as a result of heavy lifting.  She decided to give me a try. After 26 sessions, we are still going strong. We started out with sessions twice a week, and within two weeks, upped it to three times a week. The weight on the bar continues to go up as she continues to lose inches. She has only missed three sessions since we started and this was due to an unexpected meeting and illness. Amazing.

Germaine always arrives promptly at her given time. She grabs her foam roller, works that lacrosse ball, warms herself up as she needs to for her body, and then we squat. And press. And deadlift.  We are following a linear progression based on Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, but with some changes.  Germaine squats every session, adding weight to the bar every time.  We started with 65 pounds, and she squatted 170 for three sets of five the last time we met.  Instead of benching, we do pushups. I feel that, for a beginner trainee, pushups engage the core musculature more than the bench, are safer on the shoulders, and produce a higher metabolic effect.  On her first day, Germaine could not perform a single pushup on her toes.  This is not uncommon for women, regardless of body weight.  In order to get her going, I used assistance in the form of bands suspended from a strap above her.  The height of the strap determined the amount of assistance.  With a band across her chest, suspended at the appropriate height, Germaine was able to perform sets of 5 reps initially, increasing to 10 as she got stronger.  Progressively lowering the band allowed her to graduate to pushups with a mini-band wrapped around her elbows as the only form of assistance.  When she eventually got to 10 reps in this fashion, she was able to, for the first time, perform one unassisted regular pushup.  This happened within 12 sessions. As of today, she is up to 6 pushups in a row.

Instead of power cleans, we do rows with the suspension trainer.  This has had a remarkable effect on her posture and the way she carries herself as she walks.  Our goal is to progress to chin ups with band assistance, but we are not there yet.  Keep in mind that Germaine is still carrying around a fair bit of weight on her 5’1″ frame, so chin ups are a tall order.

Every strength session is followed by a 10 minute conditioning circuit. Mind you, when she squats 150 lbs for 5 reps, she is doing her “cardio” as well. Our circuits just seal the deal. Depending on the day, her circuit will contain sand bag pulls and carries, farmer walks with one or two 24kg kettlebells for laps around the gym, sled pulls with 45 lbs, kettlebell swings with a 16 kg bell, wall ball, ball slams, step ups. For time. For reps. Every week, she sets another PR for weight, reps or time. I push her. She pushes herself.

We have also been working diligently on her nutrition, as any weight loss plan should start there. While she has made changes to her nutrition regimen, this is still a work in progress.  I have control over what she does in the gym with me but she has all the control over what she eats, when she eats, how often she eats. This is probably one of the hardest aspects of training, both for the trainer and the trainee.  Germaine works very hard to eat clean and holds herself accountable for every meal although it can be difficult at times, depending on her day, whether she is traveling or not. Most importantly, though, she understands that she can squat all she wants but if she doesn’t watch what or how much she eats, the squats don’t count. She has to feed her body right, with good carbs, lots of lean protein and good fats. Simple nutrition. Her training program is simple and so is her diet. Eat good, clean foods. Eat lean protein and lots of veggies. Lift heavy things. Seems to be working for her just fine.

I asked Germaine to share her story in her own words. Here is what she had to say:

My favorite workout is biking. Whether it be on a long ride for exercise or just for exploring the neighborhood, I love to be on my bike. So I thought taking cycle classes at the gym would be the way to go for increased health, weight loss and a leaner me.

I started taking these classes three times a week, then went to four because I figured that more is better. I did see some progress but not as much as I would have liked. I decided to add a bit of weight training as well as yoga to round out my workouts. I truly enjoyed the yoga, but the weight training was boring. Part of the reason for this was because I didn’t really know what to do or how much weight. During this time, I also changed some of my eating habits, including cutting down on snacking and adding more protein to my daily meals.

Things were moving slowly and, as I read more about weight training, I thought this might be the way to go. I did want more definition, a leaner body and also I knew training with heavy weight benefits bone density. When I met Emily it seemed like the perfect time to delve into this arena. I was nervous because I felt I didn’t have any upper body strength and I knew it was going to be challenging. I enjoyed biking so much that I was loathe to give up enjoying my workouts.

Working with Emily has definitely been a challenge! Surprisingly to me, I actually enjoy lifting heavy weights. It amazes me how strong our bodies are when we challenge them! When I started 3 months ago, I could not complete one unassisted push up and now I can complete several (okay, 5 on good days). I’m not going to say it is easy, but I will say it is worth it. It is fun and interesting to see muscles that I haven’t seen for years.

I have also made more modifications regarding diet. I have added more protein, good fats and vegetables and cut out most of the rest. Now, I won’t say I’ve given up chocolate, but progress is being made! I am wearing pants that I couldn’t get past my hips. In fact, I had to give away several pairs because they were falling off me and a belt just made them look worse.

I still have much work to do. The journey continues of course. I also remain addicted to biking, but mostly it is for fun and recreation. I do not take cycle classes 4 times a week anymore and I am seeing progress much more swiftly. My clothes fit better; I can walk up three flights of stairs without getting winded; I can squat 167 pounds!! I’m not going to lie, weight training is difficult and physically and mentally challenging, but the results are worth it if you are persistent.

Germaine has been a true inspiration to me. She’s strong, funny and very humble. As much as she hesitates to admit it, she loves knowing that she is a very strong woman, stronger than most of the women I know. And that makes her feel really good. 🙂 She has come very,very far in just over 10 weeks And it shows you that planning+persistence+patience= progress. I am looking forward to continuing on this journey with her.

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