Coffee

So ya… sorry and all that for falling off the face of the planet.

Things that have happened recently:

  1. I got engaged and have been doing lots of planning and celebrating including taste tests.
  2. I bought a house which required sooooo much house hunting and ate up a huge amount of brain power and time, not to mention stress.
  3. I decided not to compete on June 14ths due to the above 2 things and proceeded to eat delicious food and gain weight instead… it’s been marvellously gluttonous though I am not looking forward to having to take the weight off. 😦

So that’s my explanation for basically exiting stage right with no word of warning. I’ve even stopped instagramming and posting on facebook! Ahhhh, I’m a terrible blogger. I’m sorry!

I literally have been in the gym about once a week. I haven’t been that infrequent in YEARS and it kills me.

But enough whining, and explaining. Here some info on coffee for you!

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that I adore coffee. And I espouse it’s beneficence to whomever will listen. I cringe when people say things like “Isn’t it bad for you?” or “You shouldn’t drink that”. I firmly believe that the benefits of coffee far outweigh the negatives for the average individual.

Most (if not all) of the negatives of coffee are either related to drinking too much of it, or related to a condition of the person drinking it. Here’s a snazzy little infographic highlighting this fact. If you’ll notice, all the Pro’s are things like lowers risk of disease… yay! And all the Con’s are things like MAY or CAN cause this issue… if you are prone to that sort of thing and/or decide to drink 10 cups of coffee a day.

What’s funny is it doesn’t even mention the obvious number one Pro. Coffee makes life so much easier, it increases brain function and has been shown to make you smarter in addition to just feeling more awake and productive.

It unfortunately also doesn’t mention some of the softer Con’s. Things like adrenal fatigue which can happen with excessive long-term coffee use to replace appropriate amounts of sleep. Or increased caffeine tolerance leading you to need more and more just to feel human throughout the day. Or the worst one in my opinion, which is the inability to self regulate and relying instead on coffee to run your daily rhythm.

Because of that, about once a year I GIVE UP COFFEE! (for 2 weeks to a month)

Oh my god right? But I love coffee?! WHY?!?!?!

Basically I go on a little coffee detox in order to reset my system, give my adrenals a break, decrease my tolerance and try to get back into a good sleep rhythm. Also, I’m not going to lie, that first cup of coffee after detoxing is magical. Full on bliss.

I’m currently on day 4 of the detox and normally would have a withdrawal headache around now, but I have been drinking black teas so have been getting a little caffeine and seem to have avoided that unpleasantness. I am however unreasonably sluggish in my thoughts and super tired. But the tiredness has resulted in fabulous sleep… so there is that.

If any of you feel that you are addicted to coffee, you are not alone. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes it’s good to give our bodies a break from things. Food for thought.

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I love Lifting!

Sometimes people say they wish they could be motivated to weight train like me, or they wish they could compete. I usually follow this by asking why? Usually it’s something like I want to lose weight, or the magazines look so good etc. Almost always I give them the same piece of advice; “Do what you like.” Not in a snarky, do whatever you want, I don’t care kind of way. But literally, find something you like and do it.

Gains are made when you are loving the gym 🙂

Not everyone likes weight training, even though it is a great way to get in shape. There are other ways! (blasphemy) Some people prefer running or swimming and like to just do cardio. Other people like team based sports. And still others like the competitive workouts of crossfit or martial arts. These are all legitimate ways to get in shape and I bet every person could find something fitness related that they LIKE to do.

I don’t just like lifting weights. I LOVE it. Very few things make me as happy as picking up heavy things and putting them down. I guess I’m pretty simple that way. 😉  haha

But sometimes I get it in my head to do workout “programs” or “methods”.  And I do. I experiment with these things all the time. But then I find myself skipping the gym a little too often. And when that happens I often go back to what I normally do… and I have an epiphany.

I have an epiphany that I have about once a year. A Re-piphany if you will.

And that is that I really like doing my own thing in the gym. My love of weights is contingent on it not being overly structured or programmed.

I’ve even blogged about it before! So why do I forget?

Well I’ll tell you why, but first let me tell you what I mean by “my own thing”

I like following frameworks, and not schedules. Principles and guidelines instead of a strict timeline and regimen. It keeps me engaged with the process and gives me the flexibility to adapt to my schedule outside of fitness or even how I am feeling that day.

If I follow a strict program that someone else designed I don’t feel like I’m really working towards MY goals… I’m working towards THEIR goals (or the ones they imagined for their user). And that’s great for the most part. But I inevitably can’t follow it to the letter because of such and such a reason and I end up modifying it, and then I am basically doing what I normally do anyways. EXCEPT now I feel guilty because I’m supposed to be following this program.

So now I have this ridiculous, self-imposed guilt that I’m carrying around, and my workouts start to suffer. I’m  not giving it my all, or if I am, I’m just not “feeling it”.

Stop that!

Let’s stop with the theoretical now. Yesterday I went to the gym and decided that I was getting really bored of the tempo I was imposing on myself from the program I’ve been following. It has a 1-0-3 tempo (1 seconds contraction, 0 second pause, and 3 second decentric movement) So that’s a slooooow down phase. It forces you to focus on form, and also means you probably have to drop the weight.

But I like lifting HEAVY. It’s motivating for me. So yesterday I decided to shed the tempo counts and just lift like a beast. It was back day and I really wasn’t feeling that into it at the start. There were no treadmills so I decided to warm up on the row machine. I managed to bang out over 1000 meters in 4 minutes! (1 min intervals) So that put me in a good mood.

Then the lat pull down machine was being used, which is normally where I start my  back day… ok well second in line is one arm rows, so I decided to start with that instead. With the slow tempo I had been using 40-45 pounds and struggling. But without the tempo restriction I decided to give 50’s a shot. After banging out 12 it felt pretty light. So I decided to try 60’s – My previous PR is 55 for the record. I did 10 clean reps with the 60’s and did a second set! It still felt pretty easy. So I upped it to 65 pounds and still managed a last set of 10 clean reps!!! I couldn’t stop smiling and definitely got a couple of weird looks.

After that I thought I would be completely toast for the rest of the workout. But I wasn’t I upped my weight on every single exercise. Partially because I was using a much faster tempo with gives you some momentum, but I think a lot of it had to do with me ENJOYING my workout.

OK, so here is my point.

I often want to try new programs because I see them around all the time. So and so it one this diet, that persons doing these workouts etc. So I give them a try, but in the process I lose sight of what I love about my workouts and they become a chore. It’s such a small change too! I’m not forcing myself to try to become a runner, I’m just using a different structure to my weight training sessions.

So listen up… if you feel like you can’t get in shape, or weight lifting just isn’t for you… that is OK. You are a unique person with individual likes and dislikes. But I promise you there is some form of fitness out there that you will fall in love with. You just have to find it! So experiment, try new sports, methods, times of day even! Just keep trying until you find what you love. And once you do, keep doing it! 🙂

Fitness and the Winter Blues

Things are about to get personal right here. As always I like to keep this blog as “real” and honest as possible. If you go to my about page you can read my whole history of my complicated relationship with my body up to the point where I started this blog. But what I haven’t touched on before are the peripheral things that also have an impact on health and fitness. Namely, the psychological aspect of health.

I, like many Canadians, suffer from depression.

I have for a very long time.

It’s worse in the winter, like it is for most people in the northern hemisphere, because of the cold, the lack of daylight and the urge to stay inside all day. It’s sometimes called the Winter Blues, but its technical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, the acronym is SAD).

But I’ve been getting better! Better at dealing with it and better at actually being happier. I no longer consider myself “depressed”, but that doesn’t mean winters aren’t hard.

Photo credit: Hyperbole and a Half

Depression is a complicated beast and is not something that I am going to try to explain here, other than to say that when you start to get depressed (real depression, not sadness) it is a vicious circle. You feel depressed -> you don’t want to do anything -> you stay away from people and things that can make you feel better -> you get more depressed -> cycle repeats.

BUT that is also the cycle that gets you out of that crappy spiral. You can spiral up!

Ok, here is where we get back to fitness. Exercising and eating right and taking care of your body make you less depressed. Not can, might or may make you less depressed. They will make you less depressed. And if you don’t suffer from depression, they will make you feel even better than you already do. There are a lot of physical and chemical reasons for that. But a lot of it boils down to the fact that you are doing something good for yourself, which means that you value yourself and that is a powerful thing!

So keeping active and eating well throughout the winter is crucial for anyone with a sensitive disposition. Obviously that’s not the easiest thing to do in the winter with lots of holiday temptations and the bitter cold outside acting as a deterrent from getting off your couch. But those are pretty easy to  overcome once you do it a couple of times and realize how great it makes you feel.

One of the nail ripping incidents

But what happens if you injure yourself? I seem to be on a minor injury streak recently. I bashed my ankle yesterday and it swelled up pretty badly. I have pulled and repulled my adductor 5 or 6 times now (I really need to get it checked out). And I have fallen down a set of stairs and smashed my knee. Oh and I can’t seem to make it through a leg workout without ripping off 1-3 nails.

Injury for an athlete often leads to depression, and if it’s something you are already predisposed to, it can be pretty hard to fight it off. But one of the keys is to have a game plan. If you have a minor injury, keep going to the gym, just take it easier than normal. But if you have a major injury that requires rehab or rest, the best thing to do for your mind is to come up with a plan of action.

  • How long are you out of commission?
  • Will this cause a permanent change to the way to function?
  • What are the steps to getting healthy again?

Lay it all out, go over it with your medical team and commit to it just like you would any other goal. And here’s the REALLY important part… treat it like a normal goal you would set for health and fitness. Break it down into mini goals and celebrate those milestones. Soon enough you will be back to normal and making even bigger progress than before.

*** I wrote the post after being bombarded by the “Bell Let’s Talk” day campaign and thought that it was important to share. I know it’s an uncomfortable and even shameful topic for some people, but it’s important to have these conversations. None of us are alone.  ***

Fasting: Another tool in the belt

I am sure many of you in the fitness arena have heard of fasting or intermittent fasting, maybe you have even experimented with it. I have been doing a lot of research on it and a while back tried the lean gains protocol (back before competition prep started) but I didn’t find it suited me. Nonetheless I thought I would give my perspective on fasting protocols and how they fit or don’t fit into a fitness lifestyle.

Firstly, for women I think fasting is a lot harder both physiologically and psychologically than it is for men.

Physically, women are not made to fast for as long as easily as men. We generally have a harder time transitioning to burning fat for fuel for one. But what is more concerning is that fasting seems to have a negative impact on our hormonal balance leading to potentially negative consequences on reproductive health as well as general mood issues. 

Psychologically, many women have or still suffer from eating disorders, myself included. A major concern of mine with the proliferation of fasting is that women will use this as a socially acceptable reason not to eat. It’s very convenient to say that a meal is “not in your eating window” for the day, but then just not eat at all, or not eat enough. And we don’t need more excuses for disordered eating. 

So in general I think that if a woman is thinking about intermittent fasting it should either be done occasionally, or with a shorter fast or 14-16 hours only and not the 20 hours recommended by some protocols. 

That being said, fasting can be a great tool to use in certain circumstances. 

For instance, over the weekend I overindulged both calorically and with the amount of sodium I had. I felt very bloated and lethargic, so decided to embark on a single 24 hour fast. It’s important to note that although my fast was for a longer period of time, I have no intention of repeating it within the next few weeks. Many protocols recommend a 24 hour fast once per week… I think I would die. At the earliest I might fast again in 2 weeks, and that’s extremely unlikely. 

So why would I do this?

  1. Firstly, I did NOT do this as a punishment for overeating on the weekend… there was ZERO negative self talk about my indulgences on the weekend, only fond reminiscences of delicious chicken wings…. mmmmmmmmm 
  2. Fasting gives your digestive system a “rest”. It gives your system a chance to process all the food that is already in it without having to deal with the next things coming in. The is especially nice if you have eaten lots of hard to digest foods like meat and nuts (like I did). 
  3. I took extra vitamins and BCAAs to help my body with cleansing itself, which helped my system process everything in it already as well as limiting the potential for losing muscle during my fast
  4. It helps to restore glucose sensitivity if you have been eating a lot of carbs as you will not have any carbs throughout the entire day, keeping your insulin low and helping to deplete some of you glycogen stores and help burn some extra fat throughout the day.

It’s important to plan your fast to have the most benefit and do the least amount of damage.

  • If you plan on working out during your fast, try to workout at the end of your fast and eat right afterwards to limit muscle breakdown. 
    Alternate Day Fasting

    Alternate Day Fasting (Photo credit: HealthGauge)

  • Sip BCAAs throughout the day and especially during your workout again, to avoid muscle breakdown
  • Take supplements that help to detox the body like vitamin C in order to aid in the fasting’s cleanse
  • Take supplements that will help maintain electrolyte balance like magnesium 

If you are smart about it, fasting can be a great tool in your diet, but you have to make sure you physically and mentally prepare for a successful fast and don’t ever use a fast as a negative. 

Here is a fabulous article about fasting for women from Paleo for Women

 

Vacation and Starting Contest Prep

I’m baaaaaaack!

Ok, so as I said before I wasn’t going to be posting a lot because I was on vacation and generally just trying to stay off of the internet a bit more and enjoy real life. But I have officially started my contest prep as of August 5, 2013! So along with prep I will be back to writing lots of blogs, and even more excitingly, posting vlogs as part of a project with Stephanie from Operation Competition Lean and Erica from Sister’s in Shape.

You can watch my first video here talking about what is happening for the next 3 months of my life. Also, in case you haven;t noticed my trend of loving research and generally being a huge nerd, I decided to make my personal motto for competing

Eat Clean, Train Dirty, Think NERDY!

Stephanie has her first video up now too which you can (and should!) go watch here:

SIS: Adventures in Competing – Stephanie’s Vlog #1

And once Erica’s is up I will update this post as I’m sure it will be stellar, in the mean time she has lots on her youtube channel which you can see here.

Competition prep this time around is going to be very different than last time. I’ll be talking lots about it, but some main differences are I’m starting my calories at 2000/day (many of you probably think I’m crazy, but I’m already losing weight), I’ll be doing mostly HIIT cardio starting at only 15 minutes 3 times per week and I will be much more regimented (mostly because I now know way more).

Another huge difference is my starting point. This past year I put on a lot of muscle, but also a lot of weight and my body normalized around 150 pounds (I was 133 at competition), last year I was between 142 and 145 at the start of prep but I only prepped for about 9 weeks. I’m actually really excited to see how my body does this time around because I think my metabolism is in a much better spot, and I really do have a lot more muscle on me. I don’t really have a weight “goal” but I am guessing I would look very lean and stage ready for the figure category at around 135 pounds, maybe as high as 138 if I can maintain most of my muscle!

I’ll talk more about what’s happening with the competition in my next post, but I do want to touch on my recent vacation…. guys I climbed 3 summits (all above 8,500 feet in elevation) in 4 days with my boyfriend!

Flexing at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

We went to California and did sooooo many amazing things thanks to his sometimes excessive love of planning ;). I will admit right now that I drank copious amounts of wine while in Sonoma Valley.

A lot of wine was had in Sonoma, some while listening to New Orleans Blues music live.

We had so much fun, ate a tonne of great food and were both incredibly active – I think we hiked a total of 33 miles (not kms) in 4 days and summited 3 peaks with changes in elevation of more than 3000 feet per day all with a 30-40 pound bag on our back! After all that I can tell you that my calves have never looked better! And just look at the view!

Just chilling next to some snow and a 2000 foot cliff… NBD

The vacation was really perfect timing, I had a great time and came back right at 12 weeks out from my competition UFE Halloween Mayhem on October 26th. Now the hard work comes!