Strength Tuesday – 04/03/12 (w/ Bonus Barbell Boost)

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In my quest for lean superhero-ness, I’m following the Wendler 5/3/1 strength training program. Twice a week, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym in our Converse to lift heavy and crank through a mini-metcon.

I expected my workout to totally suck…

There were plenty of “good” reasons for me to think that.

Yesterday was my first appointment with Dr. Sebring. Don’t get me wrong: he was wonderful. He listened and asked questions and read every one of my lab reports. He suspects my issue might be low testosterone and, possibly, high Reverse T3. Results of blood work on Thursday, and — I assume — some scheming about what to do next. The appointment itself and the Sebring Clinic were great. But my attitude was in the basement. (Need to catch up on context? Read this and this.)

I know that weight gain is objective. It’s physical. It has no bearing on my value as a human being, and I’m (mostly) not judging myself. But that doesn’t make it fun to confront the flabby stuff on the back of my upper arms and belly. No fun. At all.

I should also mention that I am smack in the middle of PMS week. It really couldn’t come at a better time, no?

Then, the toasted coconut flakes on top of the non-dairy fruit sundae?! I read some stuff about myself on another blog that really hurt my feelings. Like… “lie on the couch and cry while watching ‘Dancing With the Stars'” hurt feelings. I did a lot of observing my feelings: I feel… sad… hurt… defensive… angry… tiny… discouraged… worthless… angry… sad… Eventually I just kinda ran out of steam and resorted to the occasional whimper and overwrought sigh. Between the crying and some devastating springtime allergies, my eyes were almost swollen shut and continued to tear from irritation all evening.

I went to bed miserable and woke up miserable.

But that thing happened at the gym. You know that thing. The thing that happens when you stop focusing on the whining and what’s wrong, and just breathe and lift some heavy sh*t.

I had a brilliant workout, and I feel — if not 100% buoyant — way, way better than I did yesterday: whole, resilient, forceful. I’m taking a “self care” day today: I’m consuming only minimal internet, and I’m heading to the grocery store to stock up on dino-chow ingredients, followed by a long shower and Kundalini yoga.

Barbell Lesson #117: Lifting heavy things builds our strength in ways that far exceed the the weight of the plates.

5:00 elliptical
10 slow PVC back squats + 10 rotations
10 slow PVC OH squats
10 behind-the neck press + 10 good mornings
PVC shoulder mobility


75% of max = 5 reps @ 125#
85% of max = 3 reps @ 140#
95% of max = max reps @155#. I did 7.

Overhead Press:
75% of max = 5 reps @ 60#
85% of max = 3 reps @ 70#
95% of max = max reps @ 75#. I did 4.


5 rounds:
on the minute, 5 rows
on the minute, 5 pushups


:30 second wall handstand


How are you today? Any training words of wisdom or questions to share?

Meet Mark Schneider

This is Mark: In addition that winning smile, he's got a huge heart and a giant brain. He's my coach and trainer. And now he...

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Take That, You Jerk!

In my quest for lean superhero-ness, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym in our Converse to lift heavy stuff and work on skills...

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  • Amanda Allen says:

    First of all, I love your honesty and this blog! Thank you! Second, I had a very similar feeling this morning. I lifted some heavy shit and even PR’s on my overhead squats! I love just leaving all my over thinking at the door and hitting the WOD hard. Feeling much better this morning. Words of wisdom, focus on all the positive you do for so many people who read your blog and don’t sweat the negativity. I know – easier said than done!

  • DJDeeJay says:

    Hi! I think this might be only my second comment here, but I just want to say I love your site, I love your book (which is helping me through my first ever Whole 30 as we speak – lunch today is creamy cucumbers, cumin-roasted carrots and The Best Damn Chicken You’ll Ever Eat, which totally lives up to its name. Oh, and! Breakfast was leftover Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata! So good! And dinner tonight will include Coconut-Almond Green Beans! Also so good!), and I find your posts to be entertaining and inspiring.

    Also, unrelated to anything, I got only 2 hours of sleep last night for no good reason and today is draaaaagging.

    So I don’t really have any wisdom to share, other than I know it sucks to read/hear other people say hurtful things about yourself. But I always try to remind myself that, no matter what they say, the fact that they’re saying it says more about them than it does about you.

    • Mel says:

      You are having a Well Fed week, no?! That’s awesome. Thanks for letting me know — so nice!

      Sorry about the lame sleep thing. But think how great your zzzzzs will be tonight! Hang in ’til then. And thank you for the comforting words; much appreciated.

      • DJDeeJay says:

        Yep, it’s definitely a Well Fed week! And last week I was dipping Bora Bora Fireballs and raw veggies into Sunshine Sauce for breakfast. It was the best way to start the day. That Sunshine Sauce is so addictive it’s almost dangerous. For Easter I’m bringing the strawberry/pecan variation of your apple crisp (recipe doubled into a 9×13 pan). I know it’s technically not Whole 30-approved but there’s no added sugar in there so I’m excited to try it!

        And BTW, you were right! I slept almost 9 hours straight last night! Whew!

  • Lynne says:

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” Eleanor Roosevelt.

    “Mel’s funny, strong, sassy — her cookbook made me want to cook! In short, she’s f*cking awesome!” Lynne Bourque.

    You be the judge. I’d hate to go up against Eleanor and Lynne is all I’m saying.

    (Also, is watching “Dancing with the Stars” and crying a bad thing? I think I might need to get out of my strep stupor and get me some barbell wisdom – quick.)

  • Heather says:

    I love how honest you are. It’s hard to just let what others say roll off you and say it doesn’t matter what they think. But pushing through and taking care of yourself is the best medicine for most situations. Hang in there. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Thanks, Heather! I’m fully kicked into stubborn mode now. Clean eating, good rest, and positive thinking — or at least observing negative thoughts and letting them pass.

  • Emily says:

    I just wanted to agree with the others; I really appreciate your honesty, your vulnerability, and your genuine-ness. I’m in awe of your cooking skills and your creating skills-this blog, the cookbook (which we love), and your way of being! I’m working on doing the same in my life, and you are an inspiration!

    I really liked what DJ said: “the fact that they’re saying it says more about them than it does about you.”

    From one who has been a frustrated thyroid patient: RT3 and testosterone sound like good paths to check out. Hang in there!

    • Mel says:

      I’m crossing my fingers that Dr. Sebring’s hunches are right, and we’ll be able sort out this hormone stuff. But in the interim, I’m trying not to pout. Too much 😉

      Thank you for your sweet words; I really appreciate it.

  • Lauren says:

    I haven’t commented in a while but I feel as though it is high-time to put my footprint back over on this here blog. I am so sorry you’ve been having a tough time lately. We all have those self-doubting times and want to stomp our feet and punch some pillows. You’re doing great on the journey to find out how to work with your body and help shape it into what you want it to be. In that respect, I have no worries for you.

    But let’s take a minute to address the mean words about you on this other person’s blog. I am pretty upset by this because I think you’re such an awesome gal and you do everything all the time to try to help others. I’m really not sure how one might bring themselves to say something bad about you. So shake it off, and in the wise words of 3LW (you may not remember the non-famous girl-band/hip-hop group of the early 2000’s because they were… not really famous… but I digress) “Haters, they gonna hate. And ballers, they gonna ball” … wise, wise words. Go on with your bad baller self, Mel.

    • Mel says:

      LAUREN! Great to see you here again. Have I mentioned how much I TOTALLY FREAKING LOVE your new site. Gorgeous redesign, friend. Congratulations!

      Thank you for your words of support. And now I will be singing “I wish I was taller, I wish I was a baller…” all day in my head. Which is, oddly, kind of a good thing 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    I come over here all the time and never comment, but I think I need to today.
    I’m the girl who emailed you a while back, frantic to get your cookbook. And let me just say, it’s been worth every penny. My husband and I are on day 3 of our Whole30 challenge and have been using quite a few of your recipes in the past few weeks.
    Actually, to be honest, your blog inspired me to get more serious about my weight training and start looking up more women who lift.
    If you want to know the whole truth, your blog is why I dove headfirst into Paleo and lifting. I’m not looking back.
    So eff them! I don’t even know you, and you’ve made a world of difference in my life.

  • Lori says:

    Heya Mel, I think this is my first comment here but it seemed a good time to chime in. Good on you for getting through the negative! I wanted to add my vote of confidence. I bought the Well Fed e-book a little while back and I have loved every bit of it. My absolute fave, so far, is the Velvety Butternut Squash. I had never enjoyed butternut squash until I tried this recipe. Suddenly: FOODGASM. Thanks for all you do!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for commenting — WOOT! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Well Fed. And yes, that butternut squash is yummo. Any combination of Ras el Hanout and coconut milk can’t go wrong!

  • Kelly R. says:

    Look back at your journey and realize how far you have come. A decade ago, wouldn’t you have tried to make your way to the bottom of bag of buttered popcorn while crying and watching Dancing with the Stars? Today you grocery shop for a delicious paleo meal and non-dairy sundae. I call that a win: Mel – 1, Haters – 0.

    Well Fed changed my life. I went through two Whole30 challenges without it and I am actually jealous of people that have been able to use it on their first challenge. I did it the hard way. My food wasn’t tastey until I found you, Mel!

    • Mel says:

      You are absolutely right! I wouldn’t probably had TWO bowls of popcorn. Instead, we ate Merguez Burgers, cauliflower rice, and arugula salad. Thanks for the reminder!

      So glad to know Well Fed is helping you out now — sorry bout the first two Whole30s 😉

  • Mel says:

    Glad you’re feeling better! YAY! 🙂

    Hey, just wanted to say I made your creamy green beans (forgot their recipe name) from “Well Fed” and my boyfriend said they were GOOD (he is 100% NOT Paleo but eats what I cook, generally, for dinner, so he is like 30% Paleo 😉 ).

    I’m off to do some Oly-lifting tonight & tomorrow. And it always feels good. 🙂

  • Windy says:

    If we lived closer we could have sat on the couch and cried together this weekend. You my dear, are an amazing person. You inspire people, help people, and change lives for the better on a regular basis. And you are full of grace and compassion. I am only one of a swarm of people who’s lives are better because of you. I am so so thankful that you are EXACTLY who you are.


  • kathleen says:

    Just received Starting Strength in the mail and can’t put it down. I’m 43, getting the flabby arm, muffin pot and general aging thing and thought “I’m NOT going down like this”. I intend to get big and strong and kick aging in the ass 🙂

    I’ve been on a lifting program for 8 weeks and am noticing a HUGE difference in how I feel in general (minus the PMS weeks lol). Loving long dog walks with an occasional sprint when he is being ridiculous on leash. Focusing on lifting heavy shit has given me the shift in attitude I needed. 🙂

    By the way you ROCK

    • Mel says:

      That’s exactly how I feel, Kathleen: I am NOT going down like this. Congrats on starting your lifting program — right ON! I’m pretty sure that YOU rock.

  • Suzanne H says:

    I’m sorry you’re going through a tough time and I hope you get some definitive answers. Just keep in mind, your weight gain is a symptom, a symptom that your doctor will use to figure out what’s going on.

    I have to admit I went and tried to find the negative stuff you mentioned. I couldn’t. All I’ve been able to find is positivity. Everything I read, people think you’re great. There will always be a few who are bullies and have to put down others to make themselves feel better. Don’t listen to them. You rock!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks, Suzanne. You’re so right about weight gain being a symptom, and our society has given us all such f-ed up views of weight gain. It’s so easy to pass judgment, when instead, we need to be compassionate with ourselves and others. We have no idea what’s going on in others’ lives and judging them — or ourselves — is just… yucky.

      Compassion, I say! For ourselves and others. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Laura B says:

    I haven’t commented here before but just had to today. I read your blog when it’s slow at work because I am on desk duty due to knee surgery in February. The only physical things I can do are physical therapy and swim, which I have been doing. Unfortunately, I am a horrible swimmer,have to wear noseplugs, and am very out of shape; therefore having been feeling pretty down about working out. On the bright side I got your book two weeks ago (love it!) and have been working w/Amy at Whole 9 to get lean. It’s going to be a long process and will probably have a bunch of setbacks (food and physical) but what other choice do I have?
    I love your attitude and reading your blog. To the negative peeps out there – piss off.

    • Mel says:

      Laura, I will not have you talking about my friend Laura like that. I hear she kicks ass because even though she’s not a super strong swimmer yet, she pops in her noseplugs and dives in. She’s awesome.


      We’re in it together, sister. Long haul to optimal fitness and happines. You, me, and everyone else who reads this blog.

  • Mel says:

    To everyone: Thank you for jumping to my defense. I love you for it!

    To be fair to the blogger who hurt my feelings, I’m sure it was unintentional. She’s not a bad person, and she didn’t say anything hateful — it just poked a tender spot I already had.

    Compassion for all. Even when our feelings are hurt.

  • Alisha says:

    I want to echo what everyone else has said. Posts like this one are why I love your blog. I hope you enjoy your You Day.

    PS stuffed grape leaves were a huge hit!

  • Emma says:

    Everytime I’m having a crappy day and have to really drag myself to Crossfit, expecting it to be shit, I always have a really good workout!

    You’re awesome and your recipes got me through Whole30 and convinced me that paleo isn’t that hard.

  • dana says:


    You, your blog & your book are delicious. i’m fairly flighty when it comes to regular web-crawl stops, but your site is always on the agenda. Your writing, humor, & humanness inspire me. By being so genuine, you help me and others realize we have space to do the same. thank you. dana

  • Kathleen says:

    Dear Mel,

    You’re still my hero. There are a lot of guys and gals out there who have got your back. And while I might not be a cross fitting badass I do have some boots (and quads) that go stomp. So just let me know if I need to meet you in the alley at 3 for some backup.

    But in all seriousness. When I get my feelings hurt by others (like right wing republicans and anonymous blog trolls) I try and plant my feet in the other person’s point of view. What is it that they’re really trying to say? Is it really even about me? (9 times out of 10 it isn’t). This practice (and it’s taken a lot of practice) gives me a bit of clarity and peace and allows me to detach from the hurt feelers.

    Anyway, you’re beautiful inside and out. I’m so grateful to be able to call you a friend.


  • Emma says:

    🙁 I’m so sorry you were feeling bad. Soooo many of us think you are fantastic and love how real and honest you are with us. Thanks for being real, honest, and down to earth.

    With my Hashimoto, I try to avoid reverse T3 by making sure my carbs don’t get too low. I’ve read that when you have thyroid issues not having enough carbs can create too much stress on the thyroid, resulting in reverse T3 issues.

    I think I came to the conversation too late, but this is my comment over at Laura’s blog. What do you think about this?…

    I’ve been doing paleo for a couple of months, and I’ve never equated women following paleo and being healthy with having 6 packs abs…I don’t know where I’ve been! But, I must admit that I have noticed weight gain with some of the well-known (visible) paleo women, and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder why they’re gaining weight?” Not in a critical way, but in a “I wonder why that’s happening.” kind of way. My assumption is that they are still eating good, so why would this be happening? At the same time that I was beginning to notice this “trend”, Mel, over at theclothesmakethegirl, shared her struggle with this issue. I helped to confirm that this does seem to be an issue, and now your post. Something is going on, but what? It got me wondering if these women are doing TOO much exercise??? So, I’m wondering if they are burning out their endocrine system. This doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue with the men, especially if they don’t have endocrine issues to begin with. I’m wondering, and I may be totally wrong here because I don’t know a ton about this issue, but is it possible that women are not genetically/design by evolution to do intense workouts like the men? Historically speaking, men were traditionally the ones who did the hunting and dragging/carrying back the animals, right? If so, the women would not have been involved in this level of intensity on a regular basis, and instead been doing less intense, although fully engaged, I’m sure, physical movement/workout. Yes, the women would have been living a physical existence, but not in the same way as the men. This makes me think that this is why we are noticing the men’s bodies in the paleo community respond by leaning out more than the women. Maybe women are not genetically made to endure those kind of workout, and by pushing themselves to do so, maybe they are creating endocrine burnout, resulting in inflammation and fat storage, and this is what we are seeing??? I don’t know, I’m just throwing that out as an observation from someone who has been at this only a short time and did not know about this “controversy” until now. I’m hoping my point is viewed as being non-biased because of that fact, and that nobody takes offense in any way because I definitely have no intent to be offensive, either overtly or covertly. I’m just trying to make sense of this like everyone else. I’m looking forward to Mel’s discoveries as she digs to figure this out for herself.

  • Emma says:

    I guess I should have mentioned the Laura I’m referring to is the author of the blog Ancestralize Me.

  • Stephanie says:

    I just wanted to chime in to say that you are awesome. You certainly changed my life, as your recipes here were the first paleo recipes I ever made. Now, I give your book to patients and you change their lives as well.

    Working in a functional medicine clinic much like Dr Sebring’s (at paleo fx I was so impressed by him, as was the MD I work for), I can say: be patient. Sometimes figuring everything out takes awhile. I am sure you know that, but it is hard to remember when you are the patient. Thanks for everything you do.

  • sarah says:

    Love your blog! I practice yoga and just started crossfit. I was wondering how the two would mix. But I see now they balance eachother nicely. Your blog inspires me to continue both. Now I’m working towards Paleo.

    YAY! 1st personal record 97lb bench press. 🙂

    Rock on girl. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going despite bumps in the road… Shanti

  • AustinGirl says:

    There are a jillion Paleo blogs out there, and yours is one that I choose to follow, because you’re such an incredible person and I’m hoping that even a teeny bit of your badassery will rub off on me, as a result(ok, and because your recipes rock. I can be bought with tasty food…this is a fact).

    In a nutshell: Haters gonna hate. That doesn’t mean that they’re right.You are awesome and an inspiration to all of us who follow you. Period.

  • Cathy says:

    I have to second what everybody else said. I find you to be an inspiration, and am continually amazed that you are able to be so open and honest about yourself. I have come to your blog 4 times since monday just to see how your appointment with Dr. Sebring went, because I’ve been thinking about you. Keep your chin up –

  • Jenn Casey says:

    “Lifting heavy things builds our strength in ways that far exceed the the weight of the plates.”

    Have truer words ever been written? I don’t think so. When I started lifting (CrossFit), I expected to build some physical muscles. I never DREAMED how many mental and emotional muscles I’d build, too–and I suspect those muscles needed strengthening more than my arms and legs.

    You are kick-ass, you know! Best of luck getting a good plan together with your doctor. 😀