The concept of balance

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging as much lately as I was before. The reasons for that are twofold, 1) I have been swamped with work and have had very limited time and 2) that limited time has extended to my working out and so my fitness has suffered, so I didn’t really feel genuine writing about fitness when I was struggling with it myself.

 

I am not out of this phase yet. I still am short on time. I am frequently exhausted and I have not been getting my workouts in, but I have been good with my eating and have been going out for walks at the very least in order to get in some movement.

 

When I admitted that I was struggling to a group I am part of that is led by the oh-so-charismatic Erica Willick of Sister’s in Shape, I got so much support that I couldn’t help but be buoyed by it. Erica’s comment, however, stuck out the most.

 

I had been feeling ashamed that the balance I had worked so hard to achieve was slipping through my fingers and that shame was making it even harder to bounce back. But she so wisely pointed out that balance doesn’t have to be looked at day-to-day, but can be looked at from an overall perspective. Of course this wisdom probably comes in part from being a mom. There are a mandatory few months where you can’t work out while pregnant and there are whole swathes of time as a Mom where you have to put other’s before yourself. But then you get back on track.

 

Original image description from the Deutsche F...

Original image description from the Deutsche Fotothek: Deutsch: Astrologie & Sternzeichen & Kalender (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

So taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. It’s really only been a few months that I’ve been off track, during my busy season at work. As my work starts to slow down and summer comes around, the balance of my life sways from work centric, to home centric… and home is where I get to make the calls about how my time is spent.

 

Even though those of us in the fitness community know that consistency is so important, sometimes it good to re-evaluate using different guidelines. Look at your life over the course of the year. Was that year a balanced year? Did you take some breaks? Did you take some times to really focus and dedicate yourself to something? Did you have other times where you were on a more even keel?

 

Looking at the bigger picture can make a big difference!

 

Peak Week

Yesterday was my grandma’s 91st birthday celebration and my family went to a nice restaurant to celebrate. Even though I am 1 week away from my competition, some things are more important than dieting and I decided to go and just be the ridiculous person asking for a million modifications to my meal. I really wish I got a picture of my meal but I didn’t feel it was appropriate. I had asked for the pickerel meal which came with a rice pilaf and chorizo sausage. I asked them to instead bring me just vegetables instead of the rice and sausage and cook everything in as little oil as possible. They kindly agreed and were really good about it. So I am thinking, great, that was easier than I thought it would be. Then the food came out. My uncle had ordered the same dish and his was brought out first, sans modifications and looked delicious. Then mine came out… I had MAYBE 3 oz of pickerel along with:

  • 1 tbsp of spaghetti squash
  • 1.5 tbsp sauteed red cabbage (which was delicious, but I’m pretty sure had sugar in it)
  • 3 green beans
  • 1.5 small carrots

I kid you not, I actually laughed at the portion. It was ridiculous. I asked the waitress if I could maybe have more food and she had the manager come over and he pretended like it wasn’t a laughable portion of food (especially at the price of $26) but did agree to bring me out more vegetables, which ended up being exactly what I described above, with 2 additional green beans. So in total I got about double that amount of vegetables and a very small serving of pickerel. Delicious, but I was definitely not full. Oh well, better than going over board I guess.

The point of the night however was not the food, but instead to celebrate with my grandma and she had a great night, so that is what is important! But always keep in mind that it is so important to have balance. A lot of people would not have gone to a restaurant this close to the competition where you don’t have control over the food you are eating, but you have to decide what is more important. I don’t know how many more birthdays my grandma has left so I think that is more important that sticking to my diet 100%.

With that said, my diet for this week SUCKS. There will be no recipes this week, sorry. The list of food I will be eating is extremely short. I have been talking to a trainer who has a lot of experience with training both himself and others for competitions and he designed a peak week program for me. He is still working on the final product but the list of foods I will be eating is as follows:

  • sweet potato
  • chicken breast
  • lean fish (tilapia, red snapper or basa)
  • protein powder
  • egg whites are allowed only in the morning
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • 1 tbsp of fat per day (either nut butter or olive or fish oil)

That’s it. I will be having 40 g of carbs starting today (from sweet potato, the veggies don’t count) and I am not to add any fat to anything during the week. I am supposed to have all my carbs before I workout, spread over 2 meals and then no carbs after that. I dislike this, but it’s for 6 days. I can hate my diet for 6 days.

The sweet potato you see above the plate is the total serving for the day. 😦

My breakfast this morning consisted of 4 oz. sweet potato, 5 egg whites and half a green pepper (because I haven’t purchased my other veggies yet). Pretty sad 😦

If you have read my blog up until now you know that I do not follow the typical bodybuilder’s diet of broccoli, chicken and brown rice. I like variety and I like enjoying my food so I am not happy with this plan, but I will do it because I want to look the best I can on stage.

The trainer (Norvic) didn’t have all bad news though! I was anticipating just carbing up the day of the competition with a combo of good simple and complex sugars and getting in some good fats from nut butters, egg yolks and oils. Apparently I missed the memo on one of bodybuilding secrets. I am supposed to have a glass of red wine accompanied with chocolate (not dark chocolate, the normal kind) 30 minutes before stepping on stage while I pump up for the show! Why didn’t I know about this?! This is the best plan ever! I already went and bought a nice bottle of Folonari Ripasso (one of my favourites) and I will be buying some mini eggs for the chocolate portion because the are my absolute favourite.

If you are wondering why this would be done I will tell you! \Wine (or any alcohol) increases blood flow to your muscles which helps to deliver the sugar to the muscles. Additionally, alcohol sugars do not need to be digested, they are absorbed into the blood directly through the lining of your digestive tract and can go straight to you muscles as well. The chocolate needs to be cheap so it has enough sugar and fat content. Fat helps make you more vascular and the sugars make you muscles look bigger. So it’s not just random, there is some science behind it. Plus the alcohol will hopefully help calm my nerves. So that is how I will be getting through this week.

Another plus side and some motivation is the fact that my abs are looking pretty awesome. Look!

1 week out

Barefoot running

I couldn’t get the picture I took to upload, but I bought this exact style.

Yesterday I did a leg workout in my brand new Vibram five finger shoes. For those of you who don’t know, they look like this:

They are these funky glove-like shoes that allow full mobility of your foot and simulate barefoot running with a little extra protection on the sole and some added warmth. My dad made fun of me saying this was just the next yuppy fad… which it is, but it also makes sense. After all, running shoes have only been around for about 40 years in their current cushy incarnation. Humans have been running barefoot forever.

I did some research and found that barefoot running has some really positive effects on your body such as, improved balance and stability, decreased back and foot pain, decreased injury from sports and running, and improved foot posture.

One of the main differences between running shoes and barefoot runners is that a typical running shoe has a 12mm difference from heel to toe vs. 2 mm in the Vibrams. Having your foot on an incline surrounded by cushion allows you to “heel strike” (land with your heel running heel to toe) each stride. This is hard on your knees and Achilles tendon and will eventually wear down your heel. When you run barefoot (or close to) you can’t do this (it will hurt) and you instead land on the ball of your foot. This landing allows all the ligaments, tendons and bones in the arch and toes to cushion the impact and spring back instead of having the full impact carried through your knees and into your hips.

Alright, well in theory this sounds fabulous. A little more reading told me that trying them out would cause pain the first few times and I should work up to running in them slowly… that sounds familiar. That’s the same approach to working out I recommend, so that makes sense to me. So I decided to take the plunge.

I did a 5 min run on the treadmill to warm up (after fighting with my feet to get all the toes in the right holes) and OMG it was so much fun! I wasn’t heel striking and because of that it kind of felt like I was bouncing each stride. I could definitely see how that would be easier on your body. I can also tell you that my calves are the most sore they have been in a while because of that action.

Next up was my leg workout. A major reason I wanted to try these is because during leg workouts I like to do exercises that involve balance and if you are barefoot you can engage different muscles/more muscles than you can in shoes, however going barefoot in a gym is frowned upon and potentially dangerous. I did some variations on deadlifts which I noticed I was more stable during; my weight was definitely more in the centre of my foot. Then I did some one-legged exercises. This is where I noticed the most difference. I was able to grip and adjust to keep my balance, I spread my toes to improve my stability, and muscles were firing left right and centre that I normally don’t feel at all! Success – this is what I was after!

On to cardio, I opted for the elliptical as it is low impact and might help me get used to the Vibrams. I noticed almost no difference on this as you don’t really move your feet much. I have always liked the elliptical because it was easy on my joint so one of the main benefits of the Vibrams is already happening on this machine.

This morning I ran to the gym in my normal shoes because my calves and feet were kind of sore and I thought I’d let them recover before I tried the Vibrams again. The whole run I was so aware of how much cushion was around my feet and when I was heel striking and when I wasn’t. Yesterday’s short experience really showed me a different way to use my feet and I loved it.

I will be trying them again soon with different types of cardio and I will let you know how it goes.

As a follow up to yesterday’s post; yes, I did go to the gym this morning. I woke up groggily at 5:39 (after one snooze), ate some breakfast and ran to the gym. I did shoulders and abs, which is my favourite split to work and was back at my house by 7:15. Goal achieved!