My Training Journey

A while back I posted a blog about my nutrition journey to show how it took me MANY years to get to the way I am eating now. I thought I would do the same with my training journey to show how I started and how my training has evolved throughout the years.

Phase 1
1997-2003:Lifting weights for softball

It all started 17 years ago, with a little set of pink dumbbells just like this:

Most of you all know my story-I was a softball pitcher and my dad wanted me to strengthen my arm with some strength training exercises. I did what he told me, and all I can say is that I fell in love with it. It went from something to make me better at pitching to something that was fun! That was when my love for muscles began, and I found that weight training was a way for me to  build up my scrawny frame. Of course, I eventually "outgrew" the little pink dumbbells, so my dad got me a heavier set. I continued lifting weights in my bedroom religiously, all through middle school and high school, along with using the weight room during softball conditioning a couple months during the year.
See my weights there in the bottom left corner?
Phase 2 
2003-2010: Gym/bodybuilding workouts
When I was around 18 was the first time I actually started working out at a gym.  I got most of my workout knowledge from fitness magazines and ESPN's "Bodyshaping" show that used to come on TV, so there was still a lot for me to learn! It was around this time that I met my husband and started going to the gym with him.

He helped me with setting up my workouts and showing me new exercises. This was when I first began doing a body part split, the typical "bodybuilder" style of training. It was usually something like back and bis, chest and tris, shoulders, legs, etc, but I would try to switch it  up every so often. I trained 4-6 days a week(no cardio), and I made some  really good progress over time.

Phase 3
2010-2012: Crossfit
Fast forward about 7 years to 2010. This was the year when my training completely changed. I was introduced to CrossFit and after some convincing, I finally decided to give it a try. One of the main reasons I finally "let go" of the bodybuilding workouts I was doing was because of how jacked some of the CrossFit women were that I was seeing-I wanted to look like that! So I did my first "WOD", which was brutal of course, and just decided to go all in. When I commit to something, I don't do it half way! I totally stopped my bodybuilding workouts and was ALL about CrossFit-I immersed myself in it, as is what normally happens when people start CrossFit. I "drank the kool-aid", as they say!

 I followed the daily WODs posted on the CrossFit website, of course with modifications since there were many movements that were completely new to me. I read articles and watched video after video to learn how to do the movements. I had never done Olympic lifts before, so I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to do them, as well as other things like muscle ups, rope climbs,handstands, kipping pullups, and double unders.

It was fun learning new things, and training my body in a completely different way than I was used to. I absolutely loved it! This is when my mindset about fitness really changed. I began focusing even more on my strength, and on what my body could DO, rather than just training for looks. It was awesome. Like I always say, CrossFit opened my eyes to all that was out there outside of bodybuilding. I did CrossFit workouts for about 2 years. And the thing was, I DIDN'T lose any muscle, despite not doing any type of isolation movements whatsoever. In fact, I actually built muscle!

Phase 4-
2012: CrossFit + strength( Wendler 531)
As much as I loved CrossFit, there came a point where I started falling MORE in love with the big powerlifts and really wanted to focus on simply getting stronger. I was also starting to feel a little burnt out on just absolutely killing myself every workout and not being able to ever breathe! It got to the point where I felt like I was going through the motions, and it was starting not to be fun any more. That's when I knew it was time for a change.

I did some research online and found a CrossFit strength bias program that I began to do in addition to CrossFit WODs. I really enjoyed the heavy lifting and eventually came to find Jim Wendler's 5-3-1 powerlifting program. I think I did about 3 cycles of the "Boring But Big" program. While I did enjoy it at first, it eventually just became, well, boring. At that point I just felt I needed more variety.

Phase 5
2012-2014: "Hybrid" upper/ lower split
From Wendler 5-3-1 with some short some CrossFit WODs, I eventually began to phase out the CrossFit completely. I also stopped following Wendler and went to a more strength and conditioning style of workouts where I was following a 4 day upper/lower split.
I found a way to incorporate powerlifting movements and Olympic lifts into my training, as well as things I learned from CrossFit, and that is what I have stuck with to this day. I did at one point a few years ago add in a CrossFit workout once a week in addition to the workouts I was doing, but I eventually phased that out. I can't remember the last time I did CrossFit, and I'm not sure if I ever want to do it again!

Phase 6
Fall 2014: Powerlifting
In 2014 I decided to just do something crazy-I signed up for a powerlifting meet! I did so knowing that I wasn't the strongest person out there and that I wouldn't win anything-I just wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new! I had been doing the 3 power lifts in my training for a while, but not really training as a "true" powerlifter with the sole intention of increasing my one rep max on the big three lifts.
I decided to hire a trainer for the three months prior to the meet. My strength had seemed to come to a stall, so I was hoping that all I needed was a coach and some new programming techniques! I absolutely loved training for the meet, especially just having a program to follow and a specific goal to work towards. The workouts weren't THAT much different than how I'd been training, but instead of trying to be good at everything, which is usually how I train, the aim was just to be as strong as I could be. The focus in training was on bringing up weak links with the accessory lifts and tweaking my form on the big lifts.

While I didn't do as well as I had wanted to at the meet, I really enjoyed the entire process. It was fun training with bands and chains and all that  cool stuff! The meet was a great experience, and I would love to do it again sometime if I felt like I could really add some weight on the bar!

To be honest, I'm not training for anything specific at the moment, and I kind of like it that way. At some point maybe I'll have a desire to just train for strength again, or maybe I'll even throw in a CrossFit workout into the week occasionally, who knows? Right now I love that I can still do bodyweight and gymnastics movements like muscle ups, handstands, and rope climbs....

....but I'm also not ashamed to do a few bicep curls, too!

And I'm still squatting, benching, and deadlifting heavy, of course!

I still currently follow a 4 day upper/lower split that I switch up every 6-8 weeks. I've found this to be what I always go back to and what I just enjoy most. Am I training in the "best" way to build muscle or strength? Probably not. But I'm training in a way that I enjoy, and THAT is THE most important thing if you want to continue this for a lifetime!

And the thing is, there really is no "perfect" training plan. Everyone has different ideas and philosophies and everyone's body RESPONDS differently to different styles of training. As you can see, I've tried many different techniques, from bodybuilding to CrossFit to powerlifting, and have found a way to combine some aspects from each of those into a program that I really love and hope to continue forever. But I still have many years of training ahead of me, so who knows what new things I might try or come to love along the way!

What I want to show in this post is that in order to find that perfect program for YOU, you have to be willing to change things up and try something different, something out of your comfort zone, at some point. Otherwise, you'll never know if something else could give you better results, or what you might just fall in love with!

Always keep an open mind and be willing to give other training philosophies a chance. Maybe train for a powerlifting meet if you've been bodybuilding for a while. Or try a CrossFit WOD. Or back off from the weights and just focus on getting better at bodyweight exercises for a few months. That's what makes this journey so fun, at least to me-being able to find new ways to challenge your body!

What styles of training have you all tried? Have you ever discovered something that you loved by venturing out of your comfort zone?


  1. Great summary. It's been fun to see you go through several of those phases over the years and do well in each of them. Our quest to improve our fitness is always changing and is not the same for any two people. You are smart to customize your workouts instead of getting caught in just any one particular discipline or area of fitness. I'd guess running might be your next challenge to tackle but I know how much you hate that.

    1. Thanks! It's been fun! Running...pretty sure that is one form of exercise I'll never have the desire to "tackle"! lol ;)


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