I’m engaged!!!

Wow… ok, focus

My wonderful fiancee and I looking oh so happy.

Ok, so remember how I said I was starting prep for June 14th on Monday this week? Well that didn’t happen… mostly because I got engaged and have been having many many celebratory drinkies with friends and family and decided to take a week to just soak it all in instead.

So now it’s been 9 days since the proposal and I’m refocusing on day-to-day life… and contest prep. So I’m officially starting tomorrow, Saturday March 1st… 15 weeks out from the competition!

I will be blogging about once a week during this prep as my work life is pretty busy and now I have a wedding to plan! So sorry… but I have to be realistic!

Some things that I planning on doing a little differently this time around:

  • Keeping my food more consistent throughout the week (i.e. eating the same thing each day for 7 days (with changes for dinner and late night snack as an option) and then changing on a weekly basis. I’ve always been all over the map with what I eat as long as I hit my targets, and I believe that is the ultimate right way to diet, BUT I want to be able to see how certain foods affect my body and the easiest way to do that is consistency. We will see how long this lasts haha.
  • Taking fewer supplements… I took a boat load of vitamins and BCAA type supplements last prep and I’m just going to try to keep it simpler this time… largely in an effort to save money for my WEDDING!!! (can you tell you will be hearing lot’s about this?)

    I had to find a place for the ring while I worked out… necklaces work!

  • Be better with my HIIT cardio and use active rest – I lift really heavy even when I’m not meaning too and it makes active rest next to impossible because I need that time to.. you know… actually rest. I’m going to try to be better with periodization this time around and actually use active rest instead of resorting to LISS cardio.

Things I am keeping the same:

  • My calories will still be high and mighty! I’m starting this cut at about 2000-2100 cals/day. I worked really hard on my metabolism this offseason (read: I ate A LOT of EVERYTHING)I gained a lot more than I intended but I also put on way more muscle that I thought I could. So I’m not worried. I haven’t tracked my food in a while, but I’d guess that my daily average cals are over 3000. So I should be able to lose weight relatively easily!
  • Lifting heavy (most of the time) – this is what I love and what keeps me coming back… so I won’t be doing too much circuit training or lighter weight higher reps until the very end of prep.
  • I’ll still be flexible and have a life. Just like last prep, I firmly maintain that this should be an enjoyable experience and one where you can still go on a date, or have a dinner out with the girls.

So it begins…

15 weeks and counting!

Also – look at this amazing proposal video I got to watch before he popped the question!!!! Ok enough bragging… sorry. I promise to learn to be modest at some point.

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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.  ***

2014 goals and bulking update

My last post alluded to the fact that I have already decided on plans for the next year. And I have. Oh I have.

But first… an update!

The short version: Off season is weird and frustrating and hard to navigate especially during Christmas time.

The long version: I have already gained back all the weight the I wanted to allow myself to over the next 3 months. Which means I just want to maintain… that was not my plan. To be fair I am only 2 pounds over where I planned to be at this time, but it’s definitely 2 pounds of fat and not muscle. Nonetheless, I don’t want to try to limit my calories to come back down, because my goal is to rebuild my metabolism in this off-season. My crappy metabolism is the reason I am 2 pounds heavier than I want to be in the first place!

So vicious circle goes like this:

1 – I want to rebuild my metabolism so I eat more calories

2 – My metabolism sucks, so I gain weight (also because I randomly have no self-control and eat a lot of food)

3 – I continue to eat at this level to try to rebuild my metabolism, but continue to gain weight in excess of my plan

4 – I am now over my planned weight gain and need to lose MORE weight to get competition ready

5 – I diet down for a competition, but have to diet more strictly than anticipated because I have gained more weight than planned

6 – My metabolism suffers and I can’t lose or maintain weight easily… go back to step 1. 😦

ChocolateTo be completely fair I am only 5 pounds over contest weight at 6 weeks post contest which is not terrible. And I have been doing no cardio for about a week… and I have been slightly indulgent in the last 2 weeks… so really it’s my own damn fault. But why is it so easy to pack on pounds and so freaking hard to get rid of them?!

Side note – did you know that the “?!” punctuation mark is called an interrobang?! Well now you do 🙂

Also, I decided to do a deload week this week because it’s been approximately 5 months since I’ve gone more than 2 days without weight training (other than getting sick) and I think my body needs a rest. So that probably also contributed to the extra pounds on the scale.

I want to emphasize at this point that I am NOT calling myself fat. I am still quite lean and I actually love the way I look. I like curves and I don’t mind looking softer. What I am concerned about is getting too far from my contest weight and having to go through a “difficult” contest prep again. i.e. one where I potentially further reduce my metabolic capacity.

And on that note, let’s segue into my plans! I know most people do this at new year, but I like to have my goals and plans in place before Christmas because I love planning… and lifting. Lifting’s my favourite.

Fitness Goals:

1 – Get Pro status with UFE *oh gosh, I’m actually admitting that I want this… breathe, ok, whew* by the end of 2014

2 – Compete at the regional level with OPA and place top 3 in my category.

3 – Complete at least 2 non-bodybuilding related sporting events.

Ok, so that first one is a big one. UFE is only getting bigger which means the caliber of competitors is only getting higher. So getting pro status is no easy task. I plan to compete at Halloween Mayhem again and the World Championships 2 weeks later. These are both fall shows and would be a year after the last competition I did.

The second goal is to compete with the OPA, which is the federation that flows into the CBBF and then the IFBB. I mostly just want to see what the difference is between federations and which one I like better. I plan to compete in the spring with OP (June 14th in all likelihood) and so I will be competing at 2 separate times this year. Therefore I’ll be going through 2 separate preps.

My hope is that by competing twice I can get into a better rhythm and also get my body more accustomed to a leaner physique. Your body actually needs time at a new weight to get acclimatized, otherwise it will go back to its comfort zone. BUT, if my body is not reacting well, I will stop and just compete in the fall like I did this year. I only want to do what is maintainable and healthy.

The third goal is one I haven’t fully fleshed out yet. I definitely want to do another obstacle race. I like having a non-appearance based goal to keep me focused on functional fitness. I haven’t fully decided what the second event will be, but I secretly want to try powerlifting… or not so secretly now I guess :S But we will see what come of that. I may try something with martial arts instead. It’s all about learning new things and branching out.

Turning 25

Today is my birthday. I turned 25 today and I feel no different.

Usually on my Birthday I feel this big excitement build up to the day and then this sense of shedding and starting over for the next year of my life. No so this time around.

Enjoying time with my wonderful boyfriend on my birthday.

Enjoying time with my wonderful boyfriend on my birthday.

But it’s not a bad thing. I think instead that today feels like any other day because this past year has been one of the best and most balanced of my life.

There were most certainly some bumps along the road in the last year, but overall I felt very at ease.

Some of the things that contributed to this were:

  • I focused more on my health and fitness, and less on my appearance than I ever have in the past. I glorified in new PRs and didn’t worry so much about the scale. I enjoyed many a grassfed steak and didn’t cut off the fat. And it made me more whole and at peace with myself.
  • I moved back to Toronto where my family and best friend are… and my wonderful boyfriend moved with me. I now feel like I have a better relationship with my family, I actually see my best friend more than 3 times per year and get to spend every day with the love of my life, I don’t have to choose between time spent with any of them.
  • I actively chose to worry less about my work. I no longer put so much effort into appearing at social functions and being the social butterfly. I just did my job well, didn’t work excessive over time and when work was over, I didn’t think about it. I had a much easier time of this because I switched offices, so I didn’t have an existing pattern to try to reverse, but it was incredibly liberating. I still do an amazing job in my work, but I don’t put in so much effort to try to make everyone and their mother happy.

    Posing with my Doctor Who license plate cover with my brother.

    Posing with my Doctor Who license plate cover with my brother.

  • And more generally I just made an effort to enjoy life in an “easy” way. I didn’t go out clubbing and partying which is something that always felt hard for me, instead I went rock climbing, or for hikes, I drank wine and ate cheese, I completely vegged on the couch and watch whole seasons of Doctor Who with my sister.

This year has been the year where I finally feel like I figured out what makes me happy and what makes me feel whole. And it’s funny because it’s what I have always said it is, I just finally actively pursued those things. Health, fitness, family, friends and most importantly love.

So this coming year, before I turn 26, I want to make sure I have an even better year, and I have some goals and plans to make it one.

  1. Make a change in my career: I actually (finally) really like my job and the role I have, but it’s time for a change and the chance for new successes. This might be as small as looking for opportunities in another line of service, or a big change in moving to a new job.
  2. Be more compassionate to those I love: I tend to be hardest on those closest to me, probably because I am so hard on myself. But it’s something that I know I need to be more cognizant of and I am going to actively try to be more empathetic and not as quick to get frustrated.

    Some evidence of the "more moderate approach.

    Some evidence of the “more moderate” approach.

  3. Be more consistent with my fitness in the “off-season”: while I’m really happy with my progress in the past year, I know that in the few months after my show last October I really swung too far the other way because I was burnt out. This year, I have tried a more moderate approach and hope to maintain a more consistent training regime and diet throughout the year so I can…
  4. Compete in a figure competition and win!: I am trying my hand at a figure competition in just 6 short weeks, but my goal for this one is to just do my best, I would love to place, but it’s not actively my goal. That is for the next competition!
  5. Go on a super relaxing vacation: This year my boyfriend and I vacationed in california, 5 days were spent doing super intense hiking and the rest of the trip, while amazing, was crazy busy. This year I want to go and have a laid back trip, or at least part of a trip that is relaxing… I’ll probably get bored after 2 days on the beach and start trying to seek out adventures 😉

Thank you to everyone who has made this last year so special including all of the wonderful people I have “met” through blogging. You are the most amazing, supportive and creative group of people and I feel privileged to be part of this community.

Here’s hoping for another year like this one!

Meme pet peeve

So there are lots of workout memes out there that I absolutely adore and think are super motivating, but there are a couple out there that straight up piss me off. They over simplify things to a fault and may even go so far as to make people feel bad about themselves.

This is my most hated one.

Ugh, really?! A workout is 4% of my day? Ok ya I guess technically if you divide 1 hour by 24 hours you get 4%, point taken. But that makes it sound like you can just slot that workout into any hour of the day! Most people I know don’t have 24 hours of free time. Also, if you have to drive to a gym, get changed, shower etc. the total time investment for the gym is usually closer to 2 hours… especially if you are competing, but lets stick with the super efficient 1 hour workout, which is probably doable for most people just trying to get in shape.

So let’s break down most people’s 24 hour day:

  • Sleep – 8 hours – yes you can totally take an hour out of your sleep schedule to workout, but do that consistently and you will probably GAIN weight and you won’t recover from your workouts properly, not to mention be super grumpy.
  • Work + travel – 9 hours – maybe you can squeeze in a workout on your lunch break and eat at your desk instead? But that probably only works if you have a gym nearby, no gym close and you are out of luck
  • Getting ready in the morning – 1 hour – pretty much non-negotiable  as you need to get up, get ready and get out the door for work, you could prep this the night before and cut it down to 30 mins, but then you’re really just moving the time around
  • Making dinner and eating – 1 hour – assuming you eat with other people or have a family that likes a sit down meal this is not something you probably want to skip, but it’s probably the most “optional” thing on the list

There are of course other commitments, but let’s assume that this person doesn’t have anything scheduled… how many hours are left?

5 hours of “free” time.

So in my mind that means the  1 hour workout really takes up 20% of my day that is available for me to use as I like.  Now having said that that is still a pretty small portion if you really want to get in shape. And let’s be honest with ourselves… how many of us spend 2+ hours a night watching TV or surfing the net?

I really believe that MOST people can make time for working out, but making people feel bad by saying it’s such a small portion of their day makes it sound a lot simpler than it is. How about instead we tell people the truth? Making working out a priority is tough, it’s going to take discipline and you may have to give up one of your nightly TV shows, but if you really want it, it will be worth it.

Which is a nice segue into my favourite and probably most truthful meme of all time:

 No one ever said it would be easy, but it will always be worth it.

And at the end of the day, it is. It’s worth it, so accept that it’s hard, accept that you have to MAKE time for it, accept that you will have to push outside your comfort zone and I PROMISE you will love what happens because:

Step out of your comfort zone.....