The beauty of periodization

You can hear it in the silence; a 550-pound beltless deadlift PR; a new Biggest Loser finding; and Morpheus never lands this move. It's Links 16.

The beauty of periodization

I didn’t realize, for a very long time, that one of my biggest sources of stress is projecting out every single choice or action as if will inevitably happen again and again, unmanageably, forever. If I break a glass by accidentally banging it on the counter as I unload the dishwasher, the anxiety rises up in me: How can I afford to replace all of my glasses after I inevitably do this to all of my glasses? (Some of this comes from growing up as one of four kids, where quick multiplication of the costs of any action, like saying yes to one child wanting a candy bar, is such an integral survival mechanism for your parents it becomes the air you breathe.)

Periodization is the worst possible word for one of the best-possible concepts within lifting weights.1 It means, essentially, that after your delightful linear-progress beginning period, your training changes week to week, month to month, and oftentimes in “blocks,” or sets of several months. It goes up and down in intensity and variety. It also means you regularly deload, or spend periods backing off progress, or even not working out at all. It’s all part of your programming’s grand design, because relentless upward progress actually doesn’t work any better than steady waves.

Before I started, lifting, I was I afraid that if I started, I would have to lift more weights, more and more intensely, forever, the way that I felt like I could never stop doing enough cardio. But my first deload came, and after a week off I was able to get right back to what I was doing. The first time I had to take a month off because I got the flu, and it took a couple of weeks, but I was able to get right back where I had been. There was first time that I fucked off and and decided I was tired of trying to make progress, and just messed around working out a couple times a week, took some weeks off, I didn’t even really keep track. After a few months went by and I felt ready to make an effort again, it took a month or so, but all my strength came back, and surprisingly, even better than before. The hard parts were meant to end, and the breaks that came after were as necessary as the hard parts that just happened.

In my senior year of high school the kooky music teacher offered a music-theory-lite course as an experiment, and I signed up for it, partly because it would be an easy credit but also because I promised her I would during one of many school orchestra practices. On the first day of the semester, as chunky shafts of winter morning light bounced off the snow on the ground and poured through the windows onto our little wooden desks, she asked us, “What is music?”

She was the romantic purply type, so I expected she wanted an earnest answer along the lines of feelings and sonic images and the human experience captured by instrumentation and performance, beauty and love and emotion. We were teenagers, so we were always in the mood to undercut sincerity. “Noise. Sound,” we said. “It’s sounds.”

“Sound and?” she said.

We looked at each other. “Sound and… more sounds. Sounds of all different kinds,” we said.

She shook her head. “Sound and?” I hate Socratic method. We looked at each other, then at her, then back at each other, stumped into quiet.

She smiled. “It’s sounds. And it's silence.”


Your own girl was in the pages of Defector this week talking LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell to legend Kelsey McKinney! The comments were so great, too (not a thing I’ve gotten to say much during my career on this Internet!).

I don’t like that the premise of this piece, as we so often find in New York Times health pieces, leans toward defeatism about exercise. But this was interesting:

"First and most fundamentally, [the research discussed] suggests that abrupt and colossal weight loss generally will backfire, since that strategy seems to send resting metabolic rates plunging more than would be expected, given people’s smaller body sizes. When people drop pounds gradually in weight-loss experiments, he pointed out, their metabolic changes tend to be less drastic.”

It is almost as if, even for people whom doctors would say need medically to lose weight, that hyperfocusing on losing weight is a losing game, whether one can technically succeed at it or not.

A really great blog that extends the story of Jorts and Jean (two workplace cats, one of whom was alleged to have been discriminated against, ethnically; the evidence is thin; Jorts is an orange cat) into an allegory of workplace accommodations.

Friend of the blog and former The Outline coworker Jeremy Gordon worked out with Jonathan Groff for a GQ profile; I’ve never been so jealous in my life.

Feats of strength: ACAB, but Madagascar’s police minister swam 12 hours to shore after surviving a helicopter crash, and when asked for comment, said “My time to die hasn’t come yet.” Strongwoman Melissa Peacock, not to be outdone by my 300-pound deadlift, deadlifted 550 pounds with no belt. Alright; we’ll call it a draw.

On that note, I have an Instagram highlight of people’s PLATESLAM lifts from last weekend!! If you are interested to see what non-elite lifting and PRs with friends can do for you, you should step this way.

The algorithm resurfaced this piece for me on what meditation can do, and what it can’t.

A Defector comment for the ages


My eyes got so big at the notion of “The Corpse Bride Diet,” but like, a big [pretends to be shocked].gif to yet another social platform having its “we are shocked, shocked to find young people sharing ‘pro-ana’ tips here.” Come on. How many more times are we going to do this?

All I can think about when I look at SheIn clothes now is microplastics, but  is nonetheless an interesting look at what has to happen in order for fast fashion to get made.


A post shared by Hiroko Yamamura (@hiroko__yamamura)


I have been slow to Yellowjackets, but now I am fully on board. Juliette Lewis is genius here, but also a simply incredible role for Melanie Lynskey, who plays Shauna. If you’re like me, you have seen her in what feels like a million sweet-shrinking-violet-type roles, and now she gets to play a hardened fed-up version of that type of character, and she is eating it up. She is batting for the moon. I simply love when an actor/role works on this meta level, it gives me chills.

I made the Claire Saffitz brown butter chocolate chip cookies, and I have yet to bake them off yet, but the dough is that good. It’s THAT good. Brown butter is worth every single second of stirring (Seriously, like, one solid half hour of stirring, but it’s worth it. It’s WORTH it. Put on a podcast or an abandoned mansion exploration YouTube, you’ll be ok.)

I watched the Taylor Swift 1989 live tour movie/documentary that came out a while ago. Honestly, it’s extremely enjoyable, and while this album has two absolutely massive skips, it’s only become more of an all-timer for me in the years since it came out.


A post shared by A Swole Woman | eating/lifting (@swolewoman)

We’re going to tone things down around here for the holidays. In the spirit of balance, periodization, and living your damn life: Have some eggnog, take a load off, take an edible, watch some old movies. She’s A Beast will be closed for business from now until the New Year.

There are lots of new folks around here, so next week in lieu of news, I’ll send around a letter full of past Ask A Swole Woman greatest hits and insider favorites so you can get your head right for The New Year, if that’s what you need.

If you’re so bored, honestly, read LIFTOFF. I worked very hard on it, and I think it’s a nice spiritual refresher for people at all stages, even if you already know how to do a squat. It has notes of “manifesto” that everyone can enjoy.

Don’t forget that She’s A Beast subscriptions are 30% off right now and also come with a discount code for a free copy of LIFTOFF.

And since ’tis the season and I can never say it enough: Thank you all. ❤️ I love and appreciate you and I’ll see you in 2022. Let’s go—

  1. I’m not in the mood to dive deep into a technical explanation, and besides, that already exists elsewhere.