T Nation

41 Y/O Newcomer - Advice Please


Help and advice needed; I am a 41yr old female, 150cm tall and weigh 109lb. I apologize in advance for the long first post but feel that my history will be relevant;

I had a full hysterectomy due to cancer and with complications also had pelvic organ banding six months later... Prior to my operations I was a typical woman and took the odd cardio classes, as a youngster I was a cross country runner so always ran in between as I found it good for stress levels, I never had a weight problem and could always eat what I wanted and still can to a degree, my problem was always keeping weight on; busy lifestyle, 4 kids & a physical job...

Post surgery I was told conflicting advice, one Dr said never to lift more than 20lb for the rest of my life, another Dr said that was more aimed at sedentary older women that usually had this type of surgery and to do what felt right to my body; he was the one that suggested weight training to aid bone density. I have quite a physical job and that at first drained all my strength as well as fighting to put more weight on from 95lb, it does not sound a lot but to my body frame I looked skeletal with no muscle tone.

I'm finally in a pretty good place; my body is feeling like mine again and I'm building muscle with weight training. I started at the gym in October and was mostly kept to the cardio machines to gain some fitness and strength; this proved good for my stamina but not so good for my weight as it started to drop again; I then got a mixed cardio for 20mins on low resistance and about 30mins of mixed low weight machines. The difference in my body was encouraging but again my weight was a problem; my routine was changed 5 weeks ago to no cardio whatsoever and on to free weights, which incidentally I'm loving and think that I'm hooked.

I already eat pretty well and have 3 healthy meals a day but also ate all the rubbish in between (my excuse was it kept my weight up with the fat & sugars and sometimes I was guilty of skipping lunch with "busy") I changed the rubbish to nuts & more fruit and pulled in more pasta (ok its white as I cant tolerate brown) I plan in advance more and never miss a meal, I have a protein shake daily. The goal I guess was to do the new split routine and keep weight on and if possible to increase my weight which is happening.

I am feeling great with more energy and I look forward to going to the gym. I am loving my arms & shoulders but not so much my hips & tum (I never had hips & tum so I think it is maybe the extra weight & menopause spread?) Do I lower the carb intake now? Start doing cardio again? or trust in my routine a little while longer? Personally I think I'm heavy enough but need advice on how I can eventually get near a bikini body!

Routine is split days and I try to go 4 times per week although occasionally it could be 3.

UPPER BODY (please excuse my descriptions lol)
Bicep curl 5kg ea 3x12 (free)
Chest incline machine 20kg 3x12
Lat pull down machine 30kg 3x12
Arm dips from a bench with legs bent(for triceps apparently) 3x10 own body weight (kills me)
RX ? (rope things lol) Stood/leaning right back and pull back to standing 3x10
Sat on a ball - free weights 5kg ea from shoulder up above head... 3x12
Laid on a ball - like a bench-press but support head/shoulders with ball & core holds rest 5kg ea 3x12

Leg press machine 80kg 3x12
Leg curl machine 20kg 3x12
hand weighted lunge 6kg ea - 3x12 per leg, alternated sets.
10kg kettle bell swing (wide stance, bend knees/hips back - kettle bell swung between legs then up to straighten at shoulder height - 3x12
RX? (rope things) Planks on elbows 3x10 (holding each for a count of 5)
RX? Like a plank but up on hands like a press up, feet in ropes ... 3xknees pulled up to chest straightening in between then one to each side, ending with a knee pull up - I do this 3 times without resting which is one set, 3 sets.

The above RX tires me but more to my shoulders and thighs, I donâ??t feel as if my abs have been worked at all after this, Iâ??ve even put in the two plank things in with my upper body and worked two days in a row and felt no ab strain afterwards.

Any advice is really appreciated; I have the normal woman fear of getting fat now... I want the wobbly bits gone! (ok I know it wonâ??t be a washer board with 4 kids/stretch marks and a hysterectomy scar that overhangs, but I want as near as I can :-))


Not saying the scar and stretch marks won't be a challenge, but if the above picture shows anything....it's that with enough work, amazing things are possible.

What did you eat today/yesterday? List everything, as exactly as possible.

Also, I'm going to definitely suggest you get started with free weights, learn all the basic movements thoroughly, assuming you have access to that. If not, investing in you own set may be a good idea.


Hi hungry4more,
Thank you for your kind reply :slight_smile: Here is where you tell me my dieat is terrible lol ....

Yesterday?s Diet;
Porridge 270g made with semi skimmed milk 180ml
Chicken pasta (100g, shop bought so per 100g = 366cal, protein 6.6, carb 12.4 of sugars 1.5, fat 32.3 of saturates 2.9, fibre 0.7, sodium 0.4) with a salad, no sauce as I use the pasta sauce to mix.
Handful of peanuts (salted)
Diced Pork, onion, pepper, mushrooms in a mustard sauce with vegetable rice
Protein shake

Today?s Diet;
270g Porridge with 180ml semi skimmed milk
½ protein shake before gym, other ½ on return. (27g protein)
Chicken pasta with salad as above
Handful of nuts
2xSausage, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, gravy.
2 x Toast & marmalade
I don?t measure so really can?t guess at the portions but a healthy sized meal, I don?t eat mouse portions for my main meal in the evening. No salt or sugar is added to my food when preparing but I figure I get enough with the processed bits etc...

As for the pic, my aim is for those amazing abs :slight_smile:


No no, it isn't terrible. Your diet is definitely a healthy reasonably well-rounded diet if yesterday and today's were the norm for you. Of course, your goals aren't just to be "normal healthy", so you have to go above and beyond.

The biggest thing that jumps off the page at me is the lack of protein; depending on exact portions, it looks like you're only getting 50-70 grams of protein a day. That's shortchanging yourself on muscle growth, and therefore also fat burnt. Remember, the more muscle you have, the more quickly you burn fat. I get the feeling you're not someone who is afraid of this, but on the off chance you are....you WILL NOT 'accidentally' get bigger than you want! I promise. Nobody woke up one day and suddenly thought "Wow, I got way too muscular, I need to stop eating/exercising". It's a brutally slow process, especially for non-drug users, and ESPECIALLY for women. So if that was of even the slightest concern to you, please, stop worrying about it at all.

The simplest adjustment would be to just add another 1/2 to 1 lb of meat per day, whether it be lean ground beef, chicken, fish, etc. Just something healthy. If you only want to add 1/2 lb of meat extra per day, I'd also suggest you add another protein shake in each day. This shouldn't cost much at all, an extra $1-2 a day as long as you get good deals on meat.

I wouldn't be concerned so much with spices in general; if adding a little extra salt helps you to avoid TRUE junk food (fried food, deserts, etc), then it's easily justifiable. As long as you're not going crazy overboard with salt, the only effect you'll have is a tiny bit of water retention.

Lastly for now, so does your gym not have freeweights? Or have you been raised on the notion that they'll make you all manly and gross? Or something else?


Hey TT! Welcome! It sounds like you are off to a great start. You're story is inspiring. I'm glad you're here and have your health back.

And hey, those aren't stretch marks, those are tiger stripes, and the 4 beautiful kids means you earned every one. I started lifting at 40, with three kids myself, so I can relate. :slight_smile: Lifting will change your body like nothing else. Glad you've discovered the free weight section!!! No Fear!

I'm going to agree with the H4more's advice of upping your protein a bit. Think about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight as a good estimate - So you are shooting for at least 110 grams of protein per day. If you are getting between 50-70 grams per day now, think about adding a serving of cottage cheese or greek yogurt for a snack, and/or adding another shake and you'll be nearly there. I keep boiled eggs in the fridge, and start my day with 3 egg whites and a bit of frozen mango as soon as I wake up (10 grams of pro right there). Then if I eat 4 small meals with 25 grams each, I've hit it my protein target.

Also, you will find women's logs scattered a bit here. There aren't a lot of us, but there is a Directory of Women's Logs in the Powerful Women forum, if you want to connect. When I saw your petite height and weight , I thought of Nez. I believe you are exactly the same size and she's been lifting for about a year, I think. You might want to check out her thread in the Bigger Leaner Stronger Forum to get an idea of what she's doing in terms of eating and training.





Hi hungry4more,
My gym does have free weights and we can even move them to a girlier section with mats lol... I intend to go with the big boys eventually though as I'm not intimidated so much. I'm enjoying the free weights I'm doing so far so any advice on that is gratefully received although remember I don't know the lingo as yet :slight_smile:

I think the extra protein shake will be the way to go, not sure I can fit anymore food in to be honest; although I admit since I've thrown most of the cakes and chocolates out of my diet I feel much more energised and not really missing anything too much.

I'm not really frightened of putting on more weight, I did need to do that and I want more muscle so it is not such a concern; I just have no idea what I should weigh for my size with muscle, us women generally go by our average woman scales and I know that won't apply, but if I'm eating enough and my workout is adequate then I'm willing to go with advise and hope the wobbly bits will pull in with work :slight_smile:

Hi Powerpuff,
Thanks for the great welcome and it is good to be here :slight_smile: I'm stealing that 'tiger stripe' line lol See I never thought of cottage cheese as a protein either... I'm having to think of food very differently!
I will definitely check out those other logs too, at the minute there is a delay in my posting due to 14hr shifts but will have a really good read this week so thank you for the easier link and I'm sure I will chip in and ask numerous more questions along the way :wink:


Is crossfit big in the UK. My mom is around the same age as you and a cancer survivor as well. I suggested she do cross fit. Depending on the gym you can find they will manage you'er work out program and you'er diet. I suggest this because it can become a group activity which would certainly help with motivation and it is a great workout for those who truly pursue it.

I wish my mom took my advice. What did she do instead, joined weight watchers and is constantly counting the numbers they assign to various foods.


Ok, it's great that you're not afraid of using free weights and enjoy it; My biggest suggestion is that you master some basic barbell lifts...front squats, back squats, bench, rows, overhead press, deadlifts. In addition to being fun since you can move a good deal of weight, those are also just really good overall lifts.

Don't worry about scale weight so much, especially not as compared to most women; a better way to measure progress is the mirror, combined with your strength in the gym. You could have the same hip/waist/chest measurements as another woman, but if she's untrained, and you've made a lot of progress in the gym, you'll weigh a good deal more, and look 10x better than her.

The "wobbly bits" certainly will take care of themselves over time, of course stuff like cocoa butter won't necessarily hurt if you're really concerned with your "tiger stripes". Like Powerpuff mentioned, cottage cheese works just fine for a protein source, also eggs. If you don't/haven't already do so, I find it much easier to get cottage cheese down if it's mixed with something citrus, like oranges, pineapple, or golden delicious apples.

If you have any questions, about program, diet, or otherwise, please, feel free.


The only crossfit I can think of is a machine called a 'cross-trainer' it is a bit like a stepper/ski machine; I have one in my garage and was great to get me to the stage of actually joining the gym again as I was very weak to start with but I found the high cardio just kept my weight off which was not what I needed at the time; now it gathers dust unless my teenager has a fit of activity ... It is probably not what you are talking about but I wish your mum well, counting or not :wink:


Another shake and some cottage cheese with pineapple it is then :slight_smile:
I will certainly take your advise on trying some lifts and squats etc; I will grab the gym instructor and ask him to show me the correct form; I'm learning that this is key.
Thank you so much for your time and good advise, also the reassurances; I think it helps to know that I'm on the right lines with a few tweaks.

I will update here and there as time goes on and you may wish you never said 'feel free to ask questions' lol :slight_smile:


TT - A-rod mentioned CrossFit gyms. They combine weightlifting, body weight training, and calisthenics. Exercises are performed in rapid succession, and so there's a cardio/ stamina component. The upside is they have introduced a lot of women to strength training in a group setting. You can get in great shape. The downside is they often perform everything very quickly in a group, so there isn't a lot of training on proper form and here in my area they are very expensive. People often spend $1500 per year on CrossFit memberships.

When looking for a trainer, look for someone who is more of a strength coach type, and specifically tell them you want to learn the compound lifts. Many personal trainers don't ever go near the power rack or bench. You don't want someone who will fiddle around with stuff you can learn on your own. Also, there are lots of videos here at TN. Look under Training, and go to Exercise Videos. With a training session or two, and some instructional videos you'll be on your way. GO!


Ok, good to see. Just be advised, if gyms there are anything like here, the majority of trainers don't even know what a proper squat looks like; that's why I recommend a camera. Even if you don't want to put up the videos online, you at least can compare yourself side by side with the squat/deadlift form of high level athletes, and see if you're on the right track. That's how I got my feedback the first couple years of lifting.

Please do keep us updated on things, and no worries; I wouldn't be posting in threads like this if I didn't want to help people out. The more the merrier.


All I have to say is listen to Hungry4more and Powerpuff. It will save you time. They know what needs to be done and they have always given great advice for physique needs whether guy or girl is asking.

Also as someone who trains people for a paycheck, I also CANNOT stress enough how absolutely mindblowingly TERRIBLE most "personal trainers" idea of safe, good, or efficient form is on squats and deadlifts. It infuriates me to the point I can almost not function. DEFINITELY second the camera....and reiterate what I just said: hungry4more is a great person to learn to deadlift or squat from. I like to think I'm ok too sometimes haha.

You've got a good base a good starting diet, so implement some of those changes suggested and keep working!


Thank you for the terrific advise.
I realise now that I do have to get the dreaded camera/vid out to check my own progress better. Maybe when I'm more 'buff' I will show the before & after pics lol

The 'trainers' could be a problem as I have not seen one woman do a lift with a bar or even a pull up; light weights yes but not the serious stuff so I'm reading & watching lots and will certainly take your advise on comparing my technique.

I'm actually quite excited about the challenge & learning ahead & I'm so glad I found this site, thanks for making me feel welcome also :slight_smile: x


Yep, camera sucks but is essential. We don't bite.

As far as women lifting good weights go, we got them in spades on here :). And yes, it is totally doable to get multiple bodyweight chin-ups as a woman, I know a number of gals can do it. It is a hard goal to achieve however. But it is totally doable if you're healthy and committed for the long haul. Definitely stick around the powerful women and muscle sorority forums here because the chicks are awesome and buff and know their stuff.

Trainers at commercial gyms are usually the problem not the solution. If you have access to an athletic training center--one that trains collegiate or pro athletes, check them out. They'll be more significantly expensive but those coaches actually know what they are doing since they train people who live on the stuff and have to be stronger and better than their competition to make money vs. a desk jockey that just wants to lose 5 lbs.


To complete this circle-jerk, x2 on everything Aragorn says, TinyTerrier. He's a very knowledgeable and helpful guy.

Glad you've quickly noticed the lean away from any "serious" training in most gyms; if you want to get different results from the mediocre housewives that are afraid to use anything over 20 lbs dumbbells, you have to take different actions. Don't judge yourself by their standards. Assuming you become more immersed in this side of things over time, you'll naturally start comparing yourself to higher and higher standards (figure/bikini competitors, fitness models, etc), and then see things in a different light. Not to mention the extra motivation that gives you.

Make a habit of asking the more experienced people in your gym for advice (hopefully there are some)....avoid being a big fish in a little pond. It makes it harder to stay motivated with new goals in mind. If you're the strongest woman in your gym, see if you can't find one with more advanced members, specifically women if possible. And if you have a hard time finding stronger women at all, here's a friend of mine who is pretty crazy strong to help motivate you. (Hopefully mods don't have an issue with me putting this link up)



Wow she is just awesome! I think I may have to bite the bullet and mingle more in to the male section rather than scurrying off to the women's part, I guess it will help get better advise on form also. There are what look like to me some serious lifters which as a 'baby' one I tend to keep a low profile, I need to be braver it seems lol.




I'm 47 and close in size to you.

Maybe start logging in the Powerful Women or Over 35 compound. There's lots of good support there.

And I love chins. Actually something I excel at.


Thank you for the welcome and I will have a wander over there :slightly_smiling: Eventually I intend to feel the power thrill of a chin up lol