Training With Erin

February 7, 2014

I feel like I’ve been out of the fitness loop for ages. My blog friends would talk about this race or that new workout, and as I listened, I questioned whether I would ever be into fitness again. Since I got pregnant December 2011 I haven’t been in my tip top shape. But after giving birth, catching up on sleep, weaning and two years time, I finally have the itch to push myself again. As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been living it up at the gym these days. My latest adventure: weight training.

Erin Carson follows the blog and approached me about trading a few weeks of training in exchange for a few posts about my experiences. I couldn’t think of a more fun swap! Erin is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) personal trainer and offers online training as well as in-person training at my gym, ACAC Charlottesville. Erin was also in figure competitions, so here she is looking hot!


This is the first of several posts I plan to write recapping our sessions. Here’s our kickoff week:

Week 1: Assessment

I was a bit nervous when we began – “Is this going to be painful?!” Turns out it was only a little painful : )

We started with a variety of tests to check my form, flexibility and endurance. The results:

-I can touch my toes : )

-My squat and lunge form is good but I need to work on glute activation

-I did 37 good-form pushups in a row. Could have maybe squeezed out 10 more Winking smile

-I held a plank for 1:03. Could have gone longer if I hadn’t burned out my abs with the pushups!

-I did about 12 assisted pull-ups with 50 pounds assistance

I loved not knowing what challenge was next and since I can be a perfectionist, I felt the need to really focus on my form and push myself hard – all two eyes were on me! It’s so easy to get lost in a group ex class, but there is no cheating when you’re working one-on-one. The assessment was pretty easy (with the exception of the pushup challenge) and I was glad I didn’t have to see how fast I could run a mile at the end : ) We decided I needed to work on glute activation but my form and posture was otherwise good (whew!) I always find my lower back hurting during squats, so we set out to figure that out as well.

My goals: help with weight training program, increase weights, build muscular endurance.


Week 1: Lower Body

My assessment was on a Friday, and the following Tuesday we met for a 30 minute lower body workout. I often neglect my lower body when I think about weight lifting. The arms seem much more tone-able. While my legs are strong from running, cardio and some squat/lunge sessions, they haven’t been pushed all that much. Here was our plan:

lower body: week 1 [18-20 reps]

  1. free motion squat – 80lbs x 20 x 2 ? focus on glutes, engage lower abs and modify range to avoid back pain

  2. lunge with hand weights with front foot on step – 12.5lbs x 18R/L x 2 ? focus on glutes, adjust back foot to avoid to pain

  3. single arm/leg bicycle crunch – bodyweight x 20R/L x 2 ? avoid rib flaring by keeping abdominal wall contracted throughout

  4. hip bridge with feet on sliders – body weight x 10 flat footed R/L + 10 toes R/L | bodyweight x 20 toes R/L

  5. standing leg extension – 10lbs x 18R/L

  6. lower body hyperextension with scissor leg – bodyweight x 18

  7. heel beats – bodyweight x 20

My realization after our first real session was this: my muscles were so much more tired with less reps than I usually do, and the answer why is correct form. I have pretty good form overall, but in a group ex class after I’ve done 50 lunges, my legs just don’t hold their shape. The one-on-one attention really forced me to keep my form the whole time. Erin watched my every move, and if I so much as pushed out a rib she noticed. Her motto is: “Great Form. Great Fitness” and I now know why!

The squats, lunges and bicycle crunches were all pretty easy, but the hip bridge on sliders and leg extensions had me fatigued by the end. The scissor legs and heel beats worked my back and inner thighs – muscles I probably neglect all too often.

The next day I wasn’t terribly sore, but my left butt cheek felt a bit strained when I ran the next day. I did some rolling on a ball and stretching that really helped.


Week 1: Upper Body

upper body: week 1 [18-20 reps]

  1. kneeling lat pull downs – 40lbs x 18 x 2 ?  remember to keep a slight lift in upper back/chest
  2. pushups on medicine ball – bodyweight x 18 x 2 ? elbow on the ball goes to 90*
  3. hanging leg raises (alt bent/straight) – bodyweight x 18 x 2 ? careful – no swinging!
  4. arnold presses – 10lbs x 12 | 12/5lbs x 18
  5. seated cable overhead tricep extension – 25lbs x 18
  6. pilates bananas – bodyweight x 10R/L x 2

Despite working my upper body more frequently, I was more sore after this workout than the lower – especially in the lats. What has surprised me about our first week is that we’re not doing traditional weight exercises – bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc. I love that I am learning more creative ways to lift weights, and I imagine they are working both the main and stabilizing muscles more than basic sets alone. I also love how core work is dotted throughout. I can only do so much core before I burn out, so spreading it throughout really helps.


Here are some notes from Erin about this week’s program:

For lower body this week, I chose free motion squats to try to sort out what was causing your low back pain and to work on the glute activation.  I chose the lunges to work on glute activation as well – the offset foot position really gets the front glute working (if done properly, of course).  I also always include a glute/ham exercise and a single joint exercise, plus core work in every lower body workout. 

For upper body, I had made a note that you weren’t feeling your pullups in your back when we did your assessment.  It’s a little easier for me to cue back work when I can actually touch your back and when you’re not concerned with pulling your bodyweight, so I prefer lat pull downs for back activation work.  I chose the pushups on the medicine ball as a chest strength variation b/c I know you’re strong enough to do pushups correctly.  I always include a shoulder exercise in upper body workouts and vary whether we work the anterior, medial, or posterior delt for balance.  I also include arm work (biceps or triceps depending on the week) and core work. As a side note, core work does include the front, sides, and back of your midsection

I’m nervous and excited to see where week 2 takes me!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anna February 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

Awesome! I can’t wait to read more about your experiences. I’ve used a trainer before and found her to be so motivating.


2 Cassie February 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

That’s great you are getting adventurous with your weight training! It definitely is a different “tempo” then cardio, or even circuit training, but when done right it leaves you just as fatigued. The core activation for your squats is a great cue- usually lower back pain is either due to tight hamstrings, or to a core imbalance.

I weight train often , and I noticed after having my baby last year, I had some issue with more full body lifts (like deadlifts and squats) due to a weakened core. For me, it was weakened ab muscles along with the fact that when I was lifting pregnant, I couldn’t brace my core-so I had to rework on that bracing sequence for the lifts. I definitely had some lower back issues and joint problems (due to not keeping my torso as upright as i needed it for my high bar back squats and front squats) until I corrected that problem.

Also, the cue for the pull ups is awesome! I’ll admit, I felt pretty bad ass when i could start busting out some strict, full range of motion pull ups ;).


3 simple green moms February 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

yay love this post and LOVE weight training! =) so excited to see how you enjoy this process!!!


4 Maureen February 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Being trained one on one is the best. I love when there is a small TRX class and it’s only 2-3 of us and a trainer. I get more support than where there are 10 other people.


5 Kelly February 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I’m just getting into weight training and really like it. It’s a group class, but thats what I can do for now. 37 pushups!!! You go! I can barely do 10… hopefully slowly but surely will be my motto!


6 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs February 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

What a great trade! I’m excited to hear how the whole training process goes for you!


7 [email protected] February 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Love having a new challenge especially when it’s custom designed for you! Did you have to repeat the workouts or just do each one once over the week?


8 KathEats February 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Just once


9 Wren February 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

37 pushups!! Wow!! That’s not easy — even for some men! Congrats & bet you will notice results in no time.


10 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves February 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

How awesome! 37 push-ups in a row is amazing! It sounds like this workout program will be great for building strength and activating muscles in places that might often be neglected. Thanks for sharing your plans!


11 Allison February 7, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Full body chest to the ground push-ups? Or on your knees?


12 KathEats February 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Full body!


13 Faith February 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

I’m not really surprised but still…damn girl! Impressive on the push ups! :)


14 [email protected] Healthy Simple February 10, 2014 at 6:33 pm

That’s so awesome! The most I’ve ever done is 62. But I was 19. And in the Navy. And it was 1989.

These days I can do 15…on my knees…ugh.


15 Alli @ getting fit, getting awesome February 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm

I’m impressed! I bet lifting a toddler all the time helps 😉 I can do 3 “real” push-ups before I have to do the kneeling ones. But I’ll get there! Good luck to you with the rest of your training!


16 Jeri February 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

I love how that that as people in general are getting more people are willing to help them
get that way, like you did for me. I had to slow down for awhile because of new issues with my back, but your nutritional advice still sticks. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to get back into the weight training. But for now it’s just the Pilates.

You guys need to do a before and after pictures


17 Louise February 8, 2014 at 8:54 am

What exactly did she mean you were doing your squats without activating your glutes and how did she get you to activate them?


18 Andrea Muzzatti February 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

Wow! 37 push ups?? Amazing! Dannnnnnnnng I can maybe do 5 (real ones). On my knees…maybe 20.


19 Aishah @ CoffeeLoveHealth February 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I have also been slacking in my working out lately :( I don’t have the excuse of being a busy mom though lol Question, what do you mean by “glute activation?” Does that affect the progress you see when squatting? Erin seems awesome :)


20 Heidi February 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Way to go Kath! You’re gonna do great.


21 crissy February 8, 2014 at 8:40 pm

My muscles ache just from reading your routine! Good for you! Thanks for the inspiration!


22 Lisa @bitesforbabies February 9, 2014 at 7:37 am

Sounds like a great workout…and good for you for making that choice to be healthier (or more in shape) post baby! I think so many moms lose themselves after having kids and then regret it years later. I, for one am not that kind of mom…because I am selfish! There, I said it!! It is way too important for me to keep in shape and take care of ME so I can be a better mom to my kids. I NEED to go to the gym to release all my stress and get that ME time otherwise I seriously suffer!! Have you tried TRX? I’ve been doing it since my daughter was born a year ago and it is amazing!!! I am SO proud to say that after training for two months I was able to do a 6 minute plank (2 months after a c-section!) and just recently I hit 9 minutes! It’s a personal accomplishment for me and maybe it sounds petty but it’s important for me to feel good about myself and of course, reap the benefits of working out! 😉


23 Cassie February 9, 2014 at 10:35 am

I’ve told this to a lot of people when it comes to Crossfit. I did it all through out my pregnancy, and now that i’ve kept up with it the year after my daughter was born, when people tell me “wow, I can’t believe you do this AND had a baby” I just tell them that it’s really that I’m selfish-I HAVE to work out. I get up at 4:30 to do it (gross) so i can knock it out before my baby is up but still..i have to do it to be a good mom. Or else I would be miserable, and I’m afraid i would grow resentful.

and holy crap! a 9 minute plank?? I’ve held a 6 1/2 minute once, but never longer than that….my


24 [email protected] Healthy Simple February 10, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Yeah, I remember that I used to get up at 4 am when I had my first. It kept my sanity.

Somehow, with #2, I need the sleep more.


25 Cassie February 11, 2014 at 10:50 am

haha don’t scare me! 😉


26 Tonya February 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

omg Your trainer is gorgeous! Those arms! OK I’m not skipping my work out today. :-)


27 Fallon February 12, 2014 at 9:50 am

Great job Kath! Like all the other people who posted I’m so impressed with your push-up number, get it girl. I’m currently taking a class to be a personal trainer so it’s nice to hear that many people find them to be good resources and motivation when in a workout rut. Keep up the good work and thanks for all the wonderful posts!

*thank your body today for all it has done, tomorrow it will repay you by taking you far*


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