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! 🙂

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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.  ***

Intermittent Fasting

Yes I do <3 <3 Doctor Who.

Yes I do ❤ ❤ Doctor Who

So this post was promised quite a while ago. But then I have been suffering from a severe bout of laziness and basically haven’t been writing or doing anything much except watching the new episodes of Sherlock, Doctor Who and Merlin and basically flexing my anglophile muscles. Yes I am in fact a huge geek and very proud of it. I have proudly converted my sister and brother to Whovians. But that’s not why you are here (but do go explore BBC and become obsessed with these shows), you are here to find out more about fitness.

If you follow me on instagram you may have caught that a little while ago I did a N1 (self) experiment with intermittent fasting. I had a couple of reasons for this (1) I had been eating a lot at night and naturally was drifting away from eating as much in the morning (2) it seemed like a good cutting tool and I wanted to do a “dry run” before actual cutting season to see if it suited me.

Before I get in to how the week went, here are some resources if you are thinking about giving it a try yourself.

 IF’s impact on women

Bulletproof Coffee and how it improves hormone response (especially in women)

Mark Sisson’s take on IF

Precision Nutritions “How To” on IF

Based on the reading I had done, intermittent fasting (IF) seems to work better for men than it does for women for a few different reasons. But most of the problems seem to come from extended fasting windows. So I chose to only do 15-16 hour fasts.

There are different ways of structuring your days on IF. Ideally, I would have worked out toward the end of my fasting window and then ate the biggest meal right after that. But I work and stuff haha, so that was not really an option. Instead I tried to stop eating between 8-9 pm and then just had coffee in the morning  (more on that later) until 12ish. I would eat based on my macro and calorie goals during the 8 hour window. I worked out after work 3 of those days and in one case it was a late workout and I did not eat after… the horror!

Because I`m a huge nerd (as well as the aforementioned geek) I actually took notes on how I felt and what happened each day so I could take you through it.

Day 1

This was not too hard of a day. I had lots of distractions at work until 12 when I broke my fast with a large meal including a fair amount of carbs. I did limit my total calorie intake this day to about 1500 as I had over eaten the day before. I found that my brain was not quite as quick as it normally is, especially throughout the morning. I don’t think it got the signal to “wake up” and things were just a little harder to process than normal. After work I went to the gym and had a good workout, not my best, but I definitely didn’t feel that I had less energy or anything. I had a meal after I worked out and stopped eating around 8 PM.

Overall this was a good day and I felt good for the majority of it.

Day 2

I woke up and was not particularly hungry but was feeling very fuzzy headed. I tried to make do with a cup or 2 of coffee with some 10% cream (which should not affect your fasted state), but I was still really struggling to think straight. Again, I broke my fast around 12, a little after 12 as I was in a meeting and had a large meal with some carbs. I had about 1800 cals today, but even with the increase food my brain felt a little lethargic. My boyfriend and I planned to go to Muay Thai this evening which is from 8 – 9:30 so I decided to not eat afterwards to keep my eating window consistent. I was surprised that I did not feel particularly hungry afterwards and went to bed no problem on an empty stomach. This is NOT ideal and I would recommend trying to avoid this if you want to retain as much muscle as possible.

This day was significantly harder.

Day 3

Enjoying my Bulletproof Coffee before work

Enjoying my Bulletproof Coffee before work

In order to combat the “fuzzy brain” feeling of the past 2 days I had a bulletproof coffee (really just coconut oil and coffee and noticed an immediate improvement. I also noticed that I was even less hungry through the morning. I would HIGHLY recommend using this if you plan on trying IF. I did not work out today, but instead saw my family. I was able to eat a bigger meal as you are fitting all of your calories into a smaller time frame. So it was nice to be able to eat a sizable portion with family.

This was the easiest day so far, but as there was no workout, it was hard to tell what my energy levels would have been.

Day 4

I again had a bulletproof coffee and felt amazing all day. I had about 2000 calories as I had lost about 1.5 pounds at this point and did not want to continue losing… it is the building season after all! I did a leg workout after work and wasn’t really feeling it, but more likely from lack of sleep that a disruption in my normal eating habits. I did find today a little hard to fast until 12 and because I got home later my eating didn’t end until around 9. I still consider that a successful day.

This day was about on part with Wednesday, thought the morning was a bit harder.

Day 5

The final day of my little experiment. My boyfriend and I had to drive to Ottawa that night which made the evening a little difficult, but nothing too bad. I just made sure to pack food for the road and stop eating at 8. I also made sure not to eat anything once I got to our destination which is a bad habit of mine. The morning of this day was the easiest by far. I had another bulletproof coffee and loved it, and had lots of energy. I think my body had started to adapt at this point and expect that food was coming, just not yet.

In total I think it was a very successful experiment. I feel that with more consistency, my body would get used to that eating schedule and it would not be a mental struggle. But the first 2-3 days were quite difficult. It would definitely be a good cutting strategy as it’s a lot easier to avoid overeating with a shortened eating period. I have not decided if it’s a tool I will be using, but it’s nice to have in the arsenal.

An added perk was that I could sleep in because I didn’t have to worry about breakfast in the morning… which is very appealing to me!

Overall, it’s NOT something I would recommend to someone who just wants to lose a few pounds or shift to a healthier lifestyle. This is really something I would recommend to a person who wants increased control and is already well educated about diet and exercise and how those things affect their own body. I think you need to have an awareness of your own needs first so that you can evaluate whether this is helping you reach your goals WHILE having a happy life. No one wants to say “Oh I can’t eat right now, it’s not my eating window”.

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.

Post Competition recap

I am not dead! I promise… haha. But seriously it’s been so long since I blogged; mainly because this month has been crazy! Some highlights:

  • I placed 3rd in figure and 7th in fitness model at the UFE Halloween Mayhem contest that I did – more about this later

    The 1st and 2nd place girls along with me and my 3rd place trophy. Such an amazing moment.

  • I got a new job that started last monday and is a big change, but a good/exciting one which ultimately made me decide not to compete at the Elite show 2 week after the show in which I placed 3rd
  • My boyfriend turned 30 so there has been lots of travelling and celebrating
  • I have been semi-successfully reverse dieting and setting goals for the next year

Even though I’ve been bad with keeping up with blogging, I have been updating my instagram pretty frequently, so hop over and follow me @otgfitness  if you want to see more about how things are going in the off-season. I plan to do a little less blogging in the off-season in order to focus on some other (read: non-fitness) areas of my life.

So now you kind of know what has been keeping me away from the blog, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it all.

The competition

If you have been following my blog/vlogs (which I actually did every week, and will update here soon, but you can see them all on youtube) you know that my ultimate goal for the Halloween Mayhem competition on October 26th (it’s been exactly 1 month!) was to place well enough to qualify for the Elite show 2 weeks later.

Can you tell I was estatic?

Well I achieved my goal! I placed 3rd in figure (which is my new category of choice) – it really felt like 1st to me because at the end of the day I achieved my goal 🙂 I fully clapped like a seal and had the goofiest of grins when the called my number.

I wish I had done a little better in fitness model, but ultimately I think I’m a little too big for that category and my focus is 100% of figure now.

I did a bit of a post-show recap here:

Off Season Plans

A month out from the competition I can confirm that I have not had issues with post-competition blues this time around. I have been by no means perfect with my reverse diet. This weekend was especially bad and much bbq and alcohol was consumed, but it seems that because the prior 4 weeks I had been relatively consistent with upping my calories and slowly decreasing my cardio, I did not gain too much weight.

I explain a little bit about reverse dieting in the video, but I would recommend looking up Layne Norton if you want to know more.  My approach was pretty simple:

Starting point (last week of contest prep):

Calories – 1400

Carbs – 80 g

Fats – 35 g

Protein – 190 g

Reverse Plan

  • Increase calories by 100-150 calories per week with 0-1 pound weight gain. If gain is more than that, do not increase calories.
  • Keep protein at 130-150 grams and increase calories through carbs and fats

Week 1 (base line):

Calories – 1500

Carbs – 110 g

Fats – 50 g

Protein – 150 g

1 month post competition and reverse dieting. Still looking lean, and pasty white ;)

1 month post competition and reverse dieting. Still looking lean, and pasty white 😉

So 4 weeks later I’m averaging between 2000 – 2200 calories per day plus 2-3 cheats per week. I am hovering around 138 pound which is 5 pounds above competition weight, or 2.5 pounds above my weight prior to peak week and all that craziness. I’m really happy about where I’m at with my “bulk” but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the holiday season weight gain. I am just going to take things one day at a time and try to not go over 142 pounds.

I thing operation “glutes and hamstrings” was a success

Last year’s off-season was focused on bringing up my glutes and building my hamstrings. As you can see I think I accomplished that and then some! This year’s “project” is calves and shoulders… I want some boulders for shoulders! I am dedicating one day a week to shoulders and calves on top of the normal rotation. I also want to be leaner next year, which will be helped immensely by not gaining as much in the off-season. So my split looks like this:

  1. Shoulders, calves and abs
  2. Hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves
  3. Back, biceps, rear delts and abs
  4. Chest, triceps, front delts

I have slowly decreased the amount of cardio I am doing and am now doing only HIITs or active rest (usually in the form of burpees).

Basically I’m a happy camper right now… but a busy one!

Next up: my plans for the next year… the competitions, the races, and life!