Reactions to exercise

Almost at the 12 week mark from my next competition. Hooooo boy. I have been slacking, but on the plus side in 2.5 weeks since I “started” (soft start?) I have actually managed to drop 2 pounds… so yay?

Also I’m pretty out of shape.

Please understand that when I say that I don’t mean I look fat, or have lost muscle tone.

What I mean is I have not done cardio in forever and a day and I nearly cried while on the stairmaster the other day.

Not a joke.

Actually almost cried.

This is not uncommon… and here is why.

I think people react differently to exercise of different types. Everyone has a unique reaction, but in general there are sort of… camps of reactions to the two broad types of exercise. So I wanted to discuss what happens to me versus other people and why it’s important to learn your reactions.

Exercise type #1 – raised heart rate for an extended period of time. This is usually in the form of cardio (either HIIT or LISS of the LISS is at a high enough intensity) but can also be from circuit style weights or active rest etc.

My reaction –crying/getting choked up. I really don’t know why this happens but it does, I usually stop before I actually start to cry, but I have let it go too far once or twice resulting in extreme embarrassment in the gym. Basically if my heart rate is too high, for too long I start to get that “lump in the throat” feeling and my breathing gets a little heavier and then the tears start to prick my eyes.

It’s a purely physical reaction… I don’t feel sad, or proud or anything else other than confused at why my body is deciding to cry from exercise. But the important thing is that I know what the reaction is and why it’s happening… I’m pushing too hard.

I’m a firm believer in pushing to your limit. I’m also a firm believer that your limit is where you should stop. All the “motivational” memes about throwing up and/or dying can go to hell. I stop when my body tells me to, which is ideally BEFORE the tears.

Exercise type #2 – intense heavy lifting or long holds. This is the purely muscular type of exercise and oddly I’ve had similar reactions when I am doing a 3rd set of max weight deadlifts as when I hold a pose too long in yoga (to be fair it’s usually because I have already worked that muscle outside of yoga, but the point stands).

My reaction – yawning and then failing at whatever the task is.

The failing aspect is pretty obvious. Your muscle is tasked past its limit, so it gives out and if, say, you have a 200 pound bar on your back, you are going to fall… hard… and probably hurt yourself (which is why you squat in a rack and/or with a spotter right?!). Temporary muscular failure is a good and useful thing to incorporate in exercise and I am by no means recommending to stop as soon as you fail. You just need to, again, know your limits.

The failure that I’m talking about happens AFTER the yawning. Yawning for me is a sign that my whole body is exhausted and it’s trying to get more oxygen to push through. This is usually about 4 exercises in to leg day and all my energy stores are tapped. It’s also the point where I start to struggle with doing my “normal” weights and have to drop to a lower weight in order to finish. This is a good solution and preferable to stopping. It’s also why I order my workouts from most difficult exercise to least difficult, usually ending with isolation or machine exercises. This cuts down on the risk of injury and mentally helps me get through to the end. Thoughts like “don’t be lame, it’s just calf raises” have definitely cropped up.

I would say that my reaction to heavy training is a fairly normal reaction, the whole crying thing is most certainly not normal, but I’m sure there are other people who experience the same thing. The important thing is to know how YOUR body reacts and whether that reaction means you should stop, ease up, or keep going. So here is a list of other reaction to look for that may help you identify what your body is telling you:

  • Dizziness or blurry vision– usually to do with blood pressure – stop immediately before you hurt yourself and/or pass out. Let it pass and then see if you can keep going once you recover.
  • Hyperventilation – you overexerted yourself. Take a break, get your heart rate down and see if you are able to push through.
  • Nausea – could be to do with what you ate before working out… or you could be going too hard. Either way, ease up on things and consider eating a lighter meal before exercise
  • Tired/sleepy – did you get enough sleep? Yes? You’re pushing too hard, go easier, but keep going
  • Red face/sweaty – you’re exercising… this is as it should be! Unless you are popping blood vessels, in which case you should breath more.
  • Euphoria – of course you are happy, endorphins! Keep at it!

The end of offseason

Time has flown by! My offseason is almost over!

I can say for sure that I have made some HUGE gains… especially in my shoulders and calves (which was the goal of this off-season). I have also added general thickness throughout my body. I am as heavy (i.e. I weigh the same) as last offseason just before I started cutting again but there are 2 major differences this time around

  1. This time I have consistently added carbs and calories (probably too many) and at no point did I decrease my intake because I was freaking out about gaining too much. Even though I gained more than I wanted to, I felt that I would be better off staying at the higher calories and higher weight that if I were to drop my calories and start cutting at a lower weight

    Back and shoulders got HUGE

  2. I’m starting my cut 15 weeks out from competition as opposed to 12. This is because I am taking a trip to Disney World 5 weeks out from my competition and want to have some wiggle room and because I want to get a little leaner than last time and don’t want to have to do too much cardio.

In addition to these facts, this offseason has been GREAT for my mental health. I slowly eased off the diet and then slowly eased off counting calories. I haven’t recorded food in over a month now and it has been quite relaxing!

I gained back about 15-17 pounds this offseason (about the same as last time) but I’m way happier about it this time around. I only got to this weight in the last 2 weeks so it has been a pretty slow progression (4 months) and right up to about 2 weeks ago I have felt fabulous about the way I look. Like 100% willing to wear a bikini and walk around kind of fabulous. These last 2 pounds are right at that tipping point where I feel I need to lose weight to feel comfortable again and conveniently I have planned to start cutting next week. So in total I will have felt “not fabulous” about my body for a total of 3 weeks before starting to diet. I’d call that a win as well as good planning.

Deadlift PRs all over the place 🙂

Another major “win” in my mind is the massive fitness gains I have made. I am stronger than I have ever been; pushing my PRs beyond what I thought I could which is largely due to the excess calories and not being exhausted all the time.

Loving your body for what it can do and not just how it looks can really make all the difference in the world when you are going in and out of contest prep.

As I mentioned I will be starting contest prep next week by first starting to reintroduced a cardio session or 2 and then I will start officially dieting the first week of March. That means I will be a lot more active on my blog here because I will have a lot more info to share! This will be my third round of contest prep and my 3rd year of competitions, so hopefully I can build on my existing knowledge and nail this one!

The contest date is June 14th… wish my luck! And come back for updates and lots of info 🙂

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!


SiS: Adventures in Competing Week 9 – It’s more than skin deep

In our ninth episode of our Adventures in Competing Erica, Stephanie and I talk about the non-fitness side of competing, what goes on in you mind is just as important as your body. I give you the inside scoop on the doubts and fears that start creeping in this close to a competition. If you’ve ever competed before you probably know what I’m talking about. But you aren’t alone. Every woman goes through it and there are lots of things you can do to help ease those fears.

Rose Blackman – Young Professional – Eat Clean, Train Dirty, Think Nerdy

Stephanie Laurendeau – Stay at home Mom – Decide, Commit, Succeed

Erica Willick – Finance Exec & Mother – Strong Body-Mind-Life


SiS: Adventures in Competing – Week 8: Lifestyle

In our eighth episode of our Adventures in Competing Erica, Stephanie and I give you some insight into the lifestyle of a fitness competitor who is less than 4 weeks from the stage! In my case a fitness competitor who got SICK less than 4 weeks from the stage! I give you all the details of what happened, how I dealt with it (both the good and the bad) and what you can do if it happens to you.

Rose Blackman – Young Professional – Eat Clean, Train Dirty, Think Nerdy

Stephanie Laurendeau – Stay at home Mom – Decide, Commit, Succeed

Erica Willick – Finance Exec & Mother – Strong Body-Mind-Life