I went to the gym with my plan all laid out. I knew how many sets and reps to do. I even knew how long I was going to rest. I left the gym with noodles for legs and fired up for the next session--and I did not even use my plan. One of my friends (formerly a "gym friend", however it turned out he is my husband's childhood friend) was at the squat rack. I went over to him and, jokingly, asked him, "When are you going to be finished with that, bru?" He laughed and said, "I just started. Come on." I don't normally "work in"; but he insisted. I know how he trains--hard, focused, intense. I like to think I train to same way. But, truthfully, I knew I could do better. After doing: squats, hack squats, calf raises/leg presses, abductors, adductors, and hamstring curls I was exhausted and able to put a few personal bests on the books. I got four plates on the hack squat machine and felt like I will finally make some serious gains with my squats thanks to some adjustments to my feet that I was not aware of. More important than the sequence or the exercises what that I had fun and I pushed myself.
After 45 minutes, I left feeling so exhilarated. I have not had that wobbly feeling, in some time. It felt good to just train hard and without my plan. It felt like another mental roadblock had been knocked down. I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I feel motivated to prove myself strong on my next training day.
There is definitely something to stress and its effects on the body. I am finally at the end of one of my goals--earning a credential. I got the "congratulations alumni" e-mail. I just stared at it. I read it over and over. I was so thrilled that I gained the momentum and made a few more tough decisions that were lingering in the back of my mind. I stopped my job search and began the application process for graduate school to earn a Master's in Educational Leadership and, ultimately, an Administrative Credential. More schooling? Yes, please. It feels different, when it is something that you want to do versus something that you have to do. In my job search and after meeting with various educators, I learned that they field is so vast and there opportunities that are wonderful matches for my strengths in the classroom.
On the fitness front, that same level of stress has dissolved. And, as a result I am seeing positive changes. I am more "flabby", which is actually a good sign--even if it doesn't look like it, yet. The consistency of my bodyfat is changing and becoming "looser". I have made homemade chocolate chip cookies with my daughter (with sugar!) and I enjoyed them with her; eaten homemade pasta; filled my plate with more vegetables; varied my carbohydrate sources; drank more water; my body is more regular; I have gotten stronger on my pushes in the gym; and incorporated more static stretching into my days. I probably got to the gym twice, last week. And, I am down a few pounds.
What does that tell me?
It tells me that some times in our efforts to "get healthy" and "be fit" and "be hardcore", that we do more harm than good. I am speaking from my own experience. And, there are times when listening to one's body and spirit is the best possible medicine. For me, it meant prioritizing what was important, reassessing my goals, and taking a look at where I was in my life. I felt like I spent over a year fighting myself and I did not understand what was happening. I was doing what I was supposed to do versus what I wanted to do or needed to do. My conflict was a breeding ground for disaster--and overeating. A meal plan, from a great coach could not even fix it. I had a plan, in hand, and a coach at the ready and even that was not enough. There was no middle ground; I was either "on" or "off".
Now, I am becoming more in tuned with my likes and dislikes and even when I am hungry. Some days, I eat five meals and some days I may eat six. I think I have even done four on late days. I do not stress about something as miniscule as a few grams and it has been liberating. I have not focused on "the next meal" because I eat when I want to and I stop when I am not hungry.
At the same time that I am coming into this, I find this blog and Facebook page: http://gokaleo.com/. It really spoke to me in that she advocates just what I am looking for: moderation, an expansive foundation of healthy foods, exercise, and being strong. And, when I looked in the mirror, today. That is exactly what I said to myself.
Just when I think I have had my fill of Facebook and want to deactivate the account: I get old family pictures, a bit of inspiration, or something that is actually helpful in some way. I ran across this article that explains, very clearly, some of the deficits that can impede deep squatting:
I attributed my poor squatting to my stiff hips; this is just one reason. I did not consider: weak core strength, poor ankle mobility, and poor thoracic mobility. (Tabatatimes.com) That makes sense. The article even presented some dynamic stretches to improve mobility. I will be incorporating them into my stretching routine. If you read it, let me know what you think.
Today, I took the opportunity to look through the cabinets and see what was there. You see, on a meal plan you have your prescribed foods and anything else is a substitute. So, I have had various types of rice, quinoa, and other foods just sitting and waiting to be eaten. I created a meal plan, however, I am going to put it aside for now. I pulled out some quinoa. I sauteed some peppers and onions. Then, I browned the quinoa and just continued to add seasonings and herbs that I know taste great, together: soy sauce, lime, basil, pepper, a little salt. I also made some top sirloin. I threw in a 1/2 cup of dry quinoa, and it made a lot.
It is delicious!
I am so happy to be on the next leg of this fitness journey which is going to be defined by: freedom, health, empowerment, creativity, fun---and squats.
I just pressed 'send' on an e-mail.
I am no longer working with a coach. Part of me is a little nervous. And, part of me is excited about the real challenge of training myself, again. I guess I feel ready to move on and to create something that is just for me--by me. I look at the work that I have done with Brother #1 (remember him from a previous blog?)and think: Why can't I do that for myself? He had more confidence in my abilities than I did.
More importantly, I have decided to start sizable (at least to me) payments on my student loans and that is a priority. We have some family goals that we want to meet in a few years and that was an obstacle. Obstacles can only be overcome if you face them head on and, in this case, with an open wallet.
This is the time to have fun, again. I want to apply what I have learned and see what I can accomplishment. What can I create? I love the guidance of a coach, however another disadvantage to working one is that you cannot share your meal plans or training. Now, I will be able to write exactly what I am doing. I have been feeling stagnant, too. I do what is written and eat what is on my plan; I do not want to do that long term. Suddenly, I realized that this is not going to be sustainable for me (neither is paying someone every month).
I have also been inspired by Nikia Dyson or nydyce (http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/ndyce/), here on Bodyspace (follow her, if you are not, already). She is eating and feeding her family food like this, daily:
It is beautiful and colorful. I wish it was scratch and sniff. I need more variety without it counting against me--or at least feeling that way. That is not and has never been the relationship that I want with food or fitness.These are a few observations and/or questions that I began to ask myself, lately:
- Am I really staring at a thread called "food porn" and wishing I could eat that?
- Do I feel a level of anxiety or guilt when I eat "off plan"?
- Am I bored with my food, but feel that I must eat the same food at the same time?
- Do I feel a sense of failure when I see my compliance numbers go down?
- Do I use words like "compliance" in relation to eating or food?
- Am I actually scheduling special meals and feeling like I must be "clean" until that meal.
- The straw that broke the camel's back was realizing that I "could not" partake in the foods above (even though they are balanced and healthy) because they were not on my plan. They would be considered a "cheat".
There have been quite a few posts, threads, and articles circulating lately, about the unhealthy and darker side of fitness. Quiet honestly, I see it. I have experienced it, to an extent. I certainly credit my coach in assisting me working towards a more balanced lifestyle and a "life after competing".
I am returning the root of why I decided to pick up a dumbbell, in the first place. This is not to say that I am not going to watch what I eat and throw caution to to the wind. I will because I have physique and athletic goals, in mind. These goals canonly be achieved with balance and healthy choices.
I have gotten my confidence back--and it feels (and tastes) good.
Bodybuilding.com is where I became aware of protein powders and how to supplement my nutritional program with them. I remember trying to find the perfect protein powder. Initially, it was just about taste. I could have cared less about the fat, carbs, or sugar. As they say, "When you know better; you do better." I started drinking Gaspari's Myofusion. I drank it with 2% milk, so you know that was good. Then, I began to use 1% milk. After a while, I switched to skim milk. The big leap was using water. And, I was shocked at how great Myofusion tasted with water. I had my powder and I was set.
When they stopped switched to a "probiotic" formula, the taste changed and I was so disappointed. But, never fear--I still had my Intrapro. Two days ago, I scooped my last 36 grams of chocolate powder. It was time to make a change.
Now, I am on the market for another protein powder. I am going to try Trutein and Gaspari's Elite line. I hope for the best...taste.
I smell chocolate. That's the smell of the cocoa powder that I added to my muffins. It pretty easy. My macros have varied, but the "recipe" is very forgiving and seems to work whether my carbs are high or low. I blend: fruit (your choice), old fashion oat, egg whites (maybe a yolk or two), salt (a pinch), vanilla (a lot, because I like vanilla), and (on occasion) 1/2 serving of cocoa powder. Blend it. Put the watery batter in cupcake tins. Bake for about 10-15 minutes on 365 degrees, or so. Cool and eat. The timing is hard to pinpoint; you just need to watch it. and determine how you like it. It tastes almost like a brownie. I enjoy chocolate and banana.
I just started a book called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book is about how "flow" occurs in our life when you are completely engaged in something. Maybe you are immersed in a challenge that is difficult; but, you are determined to see it to the end. Or there could be something that just bring your pure satisfaction and joy; and, when you are doing this activity, time stops. The books states that we choose these experiences. Therefore the more you choose enjoyable experiences the happier and more content you are. Further, it is mindset that determines how you view and experience. The whole "mind over matter" thing really works in every facet of your life; we just do not take advantage of it.
For example, instead of dreading a difficult or challenging part of my workout; I remind myself of the benefits. I want to lean and a drop my body fat. That activity is effective and short-lived; so, get to work. Outside of the gym, I am finally putting a dent in my student loans. As
necessary as those monthly payment are, the benefits and peace of mind definitely outweigh the burden of the debt. I had to giggle to myself as I laughed with the Debt Lady. It turned out I qualified for $10,000 in loan relief. That was a pleasant surprise.
In that same vein, I am looking forward to tonight's ladders. It took me about 40 minutes, last week, but I got I got up and back down. Tonight, my goal is to get through ladders in under 35 minutes.
Yesterday, I was scheduled to train in the morning and do ladders in the evening. Ladders continue to be challenge, however I had a breakthrough. Even though it took me 40 minutes, I managed to finish; I went all the way up the ladder and back down. Cardio, and even lifting, never leave me that spent. But, this did. It also represented progress.
I also learned that when doing metabolic work or circuits, you must wear the proper pants.
Burpees + The Wrong Bottoms = A Severe Case of Whale Tail
I spent a great deal of time pulling up my pants. Burpee...adjust...burpee...shimmy...burpee. Believe me, I am not one to put on a show or try to be "unintentionally" sexy. Unfortunately, I was unable to get my favorite spot located in the aerobics studio. I was, literally, "out in the open" on the corner of the gym floor doing my workout and trying to pull up my pants as to not reveal my underwear. After a while, something took over. I wanted to get my ladders done and I just did not care. I made a mental note that the grey capris with the zippers at the knee were out of the question and got to work.
By the end of my workout, I was drenched. I guess this was appropriate since I was sporting a whale tail.
I was tested, today. I took the day off from work. I had an exam to take at 8 a.m. This is not especially early; I am usually at work, by that time. But, you know how it is of an off day? It is easy to find a reason to have a more relaxed schedule. I thought about training later in the afternoon. But, ultimately, I stuck with my schedule. I trained at around 5 a.m. and took my test.I should have my results in a couple of weeks. I have to be patient and wait; that is the hardest part. It almost feels like I am in some sort of limbo.
I have noticed a few physical changes, this week: my pooch is starting to "deflate"; my legs are beginning to have some shape, again; my delts are trying to make an appearance; my sleep quality has improved; and I can wear my favorite pencil skirt and not feel like my legs are bonded together. I am enjoying training and I have even been trying to push myself in new raise and raise the intensity. I have become slightly obsessed with abdominal veins. I want them, badly. Or at the very least a single vein somewhere on my body's midsection. Veins are popping up on my hands and feet, making my "man hands" (as my daughter likes to call them) even manlier. At the very least they can pop up somewhere sexy. Despite the changes my weight has stayed the same. Could some new muscle make an appearance?
Tomorrow, is legs and ladders. I did not make it to the gym for my ladders, last week; so, it is a must, this week. I have a time to beat. I have discovered that I do not mind training late at night. The gym at around 9 or 10 o'clock is just as serene as it is at 4 a.m. I also get the added benefit of a great night's sleep. I am slipping into a state of normalcy and it includes fitness. I am so grateful for that.
It is 11:50 p.m. I am ten minutes from my assignment's deadline. My final student sample is downloading, slowly. I have looked over everything too many times to count. Frankly, I do not want to look at it, any more. All I can think about is how much I want some cereal.
It is 11:53 p.m. I am so frustrated; and am over it. Just one bowl of cereal will make it all better. I'll just have a small bowl.
It is 11:55 p.m. My student sample downloaded--finally. I really want some cereal.I just bought a new box of Krave.
It is 11:57 p.m. I am going to drink some flavored water and go to bed, because the choices I make tonight, matter.
It is 12 midnight. My assignment is submitted. The moment was just that--a moment. And, now, it's over. Sometimes emotions and moments need to be put in perspective.
I finally feel like I am where I should be. It has nothing to do with: muscularity, how I look, the number of the scale, or anything like that. Finally, I enjoy the gym, training, sweating, "beating the book", and making me priority. At the same time, I enjoy life's little treats. I had the best friend chicken wings (3) from one of my student's mother. They were worth every bite. Visually, I am beginning to "shape shift". Ladders give me something to look forward to--they are hard. After "talking" (through Facebook) to other who have or had them in their programs they remain challenging and people continue to chase their best. I like that. Eventually, will not look like the beginning of a Rocky montage.
It was like a family reunion at the gym, today. It was a good thing that I went early. I caught up with people--kids going to college, changing sports, helping partners recover from addiction through fitness. We all end up meeting at this one place, but there are are so many stories and reasons that people are there. And those reasons change; mine certainly did. Which is why I found myself a bit frustrated with one member who was insisting that I compete in southern California, where "the game is different", and there are "sponsors", and the list goes on.
Even when I competed, I did not do it for sponsors or to be "discovered". I understand that is why many people do it. He did not seem to understand that I just did not want to do it. Devoting time to family, financial obligations education and career changes is not "quitting"; it is prioritizing. I had to get that through my own thick skull. Competing is a luxury; not a necessity. My decision had nothing to do with placings, or politics, or any of that. Competing is one of those things that you need to be in mind, body, and...I was going to say soul--but it is not even that serious. Keep your soul intact. But, you certainly need to be ready to commit. Honestly, I find myself more distant from the "world" of competing. But, that is a different blog entry.
I finally feel like I am where I should be. I am driven by my own need to compete with myself, forge a new form, and commit to a model a healthy lifestyle.
Goal for Ladders, this week:
34 minutes; 10 rounds--->30 minutes; 10 rounds
I am not a fan of going to the gym in the evening. It is hot, smell, humid and trying to find a plate or a matching set of weights becomes a game of hide and seek. I know people talk about loving the "smell of the iron pit" and all that. This is not the smell of old rusty, dumbbells and out of date equipment at some iconic gym--just a lack of ventilation.
I have been exhausted, lately. It is a combination of the time change and late nights studying. But, oddly, I have not felt better. It has been so satisfying to be able to align my actions with my goals. I have kept my commitment to myself--which is more than I have done, in a while. I think the warmth of the gym actually helped training, tonight. I usually feel stiff in my hips, which effects my squats. I also have to take additional time to stretch for leg days. Some times, I do not feel warmed-up until I am almost finished with my workout. This is especially true of my early morning sessions. I can't see to warm up fast enough.
I was supposed to do "ladders", tonight. But, I slept through this morning's alarm. So, I figured I would do my ladders in the morning. The time lapse is about the same. If I trained this morning at around 5 a.m., ladders would have been at around 7 p.m. (14 hours). I finished training around 8:00 p.m. and will do ladders at around 5 a.m. (9 hours). I just need to eat like a non-training day.
I just have to beat my last time of 34 minutes and only getting up the ladder.
Tonight was challenging. I am a few days into my new plan with the goal of, now, leaning out. Instead of cardio, my coach has given me a metabolic circuit called "ladders". There are four bodyweight exercises (I am sure you could choose your favorites). First you do one of each movement, back to back. This is followed by two, then three, etc. You do this all the way to ten--and make your way back down to one. I knew the circuit was deceptively doable on paper. But, I was excited to see what my current level of fitness was.
I was humbled to say the least. And, to add insult to injury, my MP3 player died so I was ever so present for each and every rep. I made it to 10, and that took me 34 minutes! At one point, I laid on my mat, out of breath, and laughing to myself. I had to take that moment in, because it certainly could not get much worse. And, thinking about the sense of accomplishment that I am going to feel when I make it all the way to ten and back down made the experience satisfying. And, I am sure my body will respond favorably, over time, as well. I felt uncoordinated and out of my comfort zone. I feel most comfortable on the gym floor. However, ladders have inspired me to push even more. Because my 34 minutes of ladders was way harder than lifting; I can certain push myself. Now, I have a few goals to work towards.
1) Improve my time at the 1/2 way mark.
2) Improve my form.
3) I have to make my way all the way down to one.
It was harder than any cardio that I have done. My legs were on fire and so was my desire to beat my current best.
Sriacha Sauce makes everything better--especially egg whites. I was tired of egg whites; I could not choke them down. But, an impulse buy from Whole Foods has changed that. It's spicy, sweet...why didn't I know about this stuff. I take that back. I did see it in Asian restaurants; but I ignored and headed straight for the soy sauce and vinegar.This morning, I did my first workout in the new plan. I was excited. It was sort of like finding the perfect pair of shoes and wanted to wear them the next day. It is exciting to know that each week is going to bring about some sort of change towards where I know I want to "sit" and maintain, physically.
I got my new plan from my coach, today. I am finished "building" or maintaining. My motivation is not a show. It is a bit of vanity. My coach described a point in the building cycle when you feel you need to scale it back. I have reached that point. I am not buying new clothes. And, the warmer weather is coming. It is just part of the cycle. And, I am actually excited about it.
I started prepping my meals; it feels odd to be doing this at 9 p.m. But, I have homework to do. So, it really isn't a big deal. I have ladders in my program. I have never had them, before. I am looking forward to sucking wind on those. There are several circuit. First , you do 1 rep of everything in the circuit. Then, you repeat the circuit by doing two of each exercise. You repeat until you are up to ten reps in the circuit. I am going to use time as my first gauge and try to improve from their.
Another interesting cycle I am seeing is more and more people that I know, virtually, shifting their opinions and feelings about competing and the "fitness industry", in general. I am not against competing. I have been fortunate to have caring and/or knowledgeable coaches. I mean caring in the sense that they were not the get-you-on-the-stage-by-any-means-necessary-even-if-it means-starving-you-and-doing-irreparable-damage coaches. It is just not for me, anymore. I do and still love and strive for the muscularity. Undoing the "x weeks out" mentality was and remains one of my challenges.
I think one of the entertaining parts of this process is going to be witnessing the weekly changes.
Here we go?
While looking in the mirror to adjust my form (and possibly check myself out--don't judge) I noticed a woman who has been coming to gym, for a while, doing assisted pull-ups . She has at least been going for as long as I have. Her body was, noticeably smaller. I decided that I was going to let her know that I noticed. "Really?" she responded, "I have gone up and down for so long and I just didn't see it. My birthday is Tuesday; I'll be 44! Thanks for a great gift! What's your name?" She continued her training and I completed my last few sets of tricep press downs.
I think I felt as good as she did. We often go to the gym, day and day after day, and it can get discouraging, at times. We know it is going to take time to get to our respective goals. But,there are days when you just want to scream, "Why am doing this? Why is this taking so long?" Fitness takes a long time--a lifetime. To keep yourself challenged, you are always changing your goals and progressing towards something. The best part is when you finally begin to notice your own progress. Actually, it feels pretty good to the take time to notice someone else's.