How to get through cardio

Today was my last cardio and weight session before the competition on Saturday (my body is giving a huge sigh of relief because it is pretty much cooked at this point). But even though I knew it was my last session it was still hard. I have mentioned before that I don’t like cardio, like I really don’t like it. I don’t hate it, but a typical cardio session for me consists of counting down the minutes until it’s over and trying desperately to distract myself from the misery (that kind of sounds like I hate it, lol). So 60 minutes of slow speed on a stair master is kind of like torture to me, but I do it anyways because it is necessary to lean out for the competition. I am still doing less cardio than a lot of competitors do (like 2 hours per day) thankfully and letting my diet and muscle mass burn the calories for me. To get through a full 60 minutes I have to play mind games with myself and trick myself into not getting off the machine. Maybe some of these mind games will help a few of you or maybe you can add to the list, so here are a few of my techniques for surviving long cardio sessions:

Watch an interesting TV show

I have a weird fascination with watching the food network while I do cardio. I’m pretty sure that’s not even kind of normal and should make me crave the food like crazy, but it doesn’t. I just love getting ideas for food for after the competition. Even when I’m not in competition training these were my go to shows during cardio. I think on some level I feel like I can earn those foods through cardio and that gives me motivation, even though I don’t end up eating those foods. I’m just crazy. But find a show that you like and you will be more inclined to stay on the machine at least until the show is over 🙂

Break the session into smaller pieces

You know how when you have a big goal (like losing 20 pounds) you have to break it up into smaller goals (like losing 2 pounds per week, and eating a certain number of cals per day)? Well you can do the same with cardio. For the stair master I break it into 1 minute, 5 minute AND 10 minute goals… because I’m that crazy. Each minute is a mini achievement and I will change what I’m doing on the minutes.

My stair master workout

The first 3 minutes are every step, then 2 minutes of every other step which gets me to 5 minutes… yay! Then the second round of 5 minutes is 2 minutes every step forward, 1 minutes side step to the right, 1 minute forward, 1 minute side step to the left. Congratulations, you have reached 10 minutes! Now repeat that 6 times!

By doing this I can feel like I’m making progress instead of thinking OMG I have 55 minutes left, I think, “5 minutes and I’m done my first round”.

Take breaks

This kind of goes hand in hand with breaking it into smaller pieces, but I will usually take a break (full stop on the stair master or elliptical, and slow walk on the treadmill) at the end of each  “round”. I try to keep any breaks under 1 minute and closer to 30 seconds so I don’t bring my heart rate down too much, but take as long as you need to feel like you can get back at it. This helps with the timing too, in my head I’m thinking “I can last 4 minutes until I rest no problem” even on my last round it’s not an issue, but if I’m thinking, “I have 40 minutes until I can breathe again” I might just give up.

Do it first

This is a new one for me because I have always been told to do cardio AFTER weights because then you can give the weights your all and not be overly tired. Weights, however, have never been an issue for me. I don’t drag myself through a weight routine because I like it (for the most part) and even when they are super hard, they have natural breaks built into them and already have mini-goals and everything, so no problems there. But if I am already tired from weights, cardio might just get knocked off the list. That also might happen if I am running short on time. So if cardio is a priority, do it first when you have the energy and the time. That way you know you will get it done and it is out of the way!

So those are my tricks… what are yours?

FYI – these tricks can basically be applied to anything you don’t really like in life.

Now for a quick update – I feel way better today. Much more peppy. Possibly because I can rest and eat more carbs tomorrow and I KNOW that will make my body feel better. Possibly also because the show is on Saturday and I revamped my costume a little, which I am so proud of myself for making. I can’t wait to share the pictures with you guys! I am apparently in a “listing things” kind of mood so here is a list of things I’m happy/excited about and things I’m worried about:

Happy/excited list

  • Getting spray tanned and makeup done professionally so I will look rocking on stage
  • Wearing my self-made costume and fun bikini
  • Showing off weeks months of hard work
  • Drinking wine and eating chocolate before the show
  • Hearing my boyfriend/friends/family in the audience
  • Meeting all the other competitors
  • Finding out how I compare to all the other people’s hard work

Worry list

  • Falling on my face on stage because of the ridiculous heels
  • Falling on my face on stage because of a muscle cramp due to dehydration
  • Falling on my face on stage because I pass out from nerves (noticing a trend?)
  • Getting my carb up wrong and looking either too hard and muscle OR to watery and soft on stage
  • Messing up my tan/makeup and hair (which I am doing myself)
  • Getting too nervous and having my poses and walk look weird because of it
  • Finding out how I compare to all the other people’s hard work (yes this is on both lists)

Glad to see the lists are about even, and the worry list is actually shorter since the first three are about the same.

Thanks for everyone’s support!

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Friday Workout Recap

I have 1 week to show day!!!! (I don’t count the day of the show). OMG! I thought some of you might want to know what my workouts have been like leading up to this final phase and what workouts I have planned for the last week of prep.

Firstly, I’ll give you a status update on how I am doing. I’m tired. Like bone weary exhaustion. I actually slept for 9 hours last night and woke up just wanting more sleep. I’m pretty sure this is because I am working my body super hard and not giving it enough food to rebuild itself. Your body works much more effectively at rebuilding when you are asleep so if I’m not giving it food, it wants more sleep. Fair trade, but I don’t have time to sleep more!!!

Sleep is oh so important to losing weight because…

  • as I mentioned above, your body is much better at rebuilding when you sleep.
  • It also reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) and too much cortisol causes your body to hold on to fat deposits because in times of stress you might need that fat! Evolution hasn’t caught up to the fact that my stress is from sitting at a desk all day, not because winter is coming (which I can’t say without feeling like a Stark!).
  • Not getting enough sleep decreases you insulin sensitivity too which means your body will release more insulin and insulin causes fat storage.
  • Not sleeping enough also decreases your overall feelings of energy and when you are in a slump you crave sugary things that will give you a quick boost to your energy… and then crash again… wash, rinse, repeat, gain weight!

This is not a comprehensive list and really only covers the weight side-effects of not getting enough sleep, but clearly sleep is a much overlooked factor in weight-loss and health.

Secondly, my legs are sore… all the time. I am not training my legs specifically any more than I normally would which is 1-2 times per week. What I am doing is a lot of tight squeezes on the stair master (which works legs), a lot of total body conditioning like burpees, squat jumps, cross-body cable pulls, and kettlebell swings (which work the legs), a lot of HIIT involving rowing, hills and biking on high resistance (which work the legs) and not taking rest days!

So when I do a leg day specifically, I am in pain, I then do all these other things and never give my legs a chance to fully recover and then do it all again. This makes even doing the elliptical (which let’s face it, is the easiest cardio ever) really hard. I am not so sore that I can’t walk, it’s more the kind of soreness where you are “aware” of your legs. I am walking and I know that each step requires my quads, hamstrings and butt. No normal. I would normally say ok, my body needs a break, but noooo I’m a crazy person and entered a vanity contest so I am dragging my tired legs through workouts every day this week!

Lastly, I’m foggy. My brain is not running quite at full capacity. I notice words don’t come quite as easily as they normally do. This is incredibly upsetting to me because I have a great affection for using exactly the right word in the right situation. Words like doppelganger, sesquipedalian, and assuage have been known to grace my sentences with responding eye rolls of “what are you talking about?”. Instead I find myself halting in the middle of a sentence searching for a simple word, hoping the other person knows what I am trying to say. I even full on forgot a movie I had watched the night before. I clean forgot and could not remember until I went home that night and scanned through the movies until I remembered (it was men in black 3). I dislike this side effect of dieting!

So I’m tired, I’m sore, and my brain is foggy. BUT I am still enjoying my food, I am keeping on track with my workouts, I am looking leaner (but haven’t lost scale weight… go figure) and am extremely excited to step on stage.

So keeping that in mind, here are some workouts that I have done in the past couple of days and my plan for next week. All the workouts here are doable at any level. Just change the intensity, weight, or reps to what you can do.

Wednesday – Legs

WO Name: My legs are sore but I don’t care!

Warm up – 5 minutes of running

Leg workout

  • Superset: Goodmornings and wide stance squat with 80 lb barbell across shoulders – 12 reps each exercise, rest one minute, 4 sets.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats with no weight – 15 reps each leg, rest 1 minute, 4 sets
  • Superset: Narrow stance leg press and calf raises on leg press machine with 180 lbs – 12 reps each exercise, one minute rest, 4 sets
  • Lying down hamstring curl machine with 80 lbs – 12 reps, 1 minute rest, 4 sets

Cardio: 30 minutes elliptical machine

Abs:

  • Crunches on the swiss ball – 15 reps, 3 sets
  • Roman Chair leg lifts – 12 reps, 3 sets
  • Oblique v-ups – 12 reps each side, 3 sets

Stretch: 15 minutes full body

Thursday Morning: Full body/HIIT with Max

WO Name: The BAMF bike WO plus mirror muscles

HIIT: Set a bike at an easy level (I was at level 10) and pedal for 2-3 minutes to warm up or do whatever warm up you like. Then do 20 minutes of: 1 minute at low level (10), and 1 minute at high intensity (level 20 for me). During the high intensity minutes “saddle-up” which means stand and transfer your body back and forth across the seat to push the peddles.

*** I had 2 times where I took 2 minute low level breaks because as I have mentioned, my legs are super sore. Max had originally set this at level 11 and level 22 but after the first round we reduced it because I was way too sore for that level. With enough food and normal rest in me I would have been able to do the workout as designed, but you can only do your best!

Mirror Muscles: (Chest and abs) Load a bench press bar with a weight you can do for 15 reps without breaking form but is challenging. I used 75 lbs. Place a mat to do abs on beside the bench.

Performs the Bench Press and Jackknife sit-ups as a superset for 6 sets with countdown reps as follows: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10. Rest for 1 minute in between sets and remember to keep good form throughout the whole thing.

Thursday night – Biceps and Cardio

WO Name: The gun show

Cardio: 45 minute incline walk alternating randomly between a 5% incline and 10% incline at 3.8-4.0 mph. (I would normally stay at a high inline and at 4.0 mph, but my hamstrings and butt could not take it)

Biceps (to finish off the stereotypical mirror muscles):

  • Suppinated DB bicep curls – 15 lbs dumbbells, 15 reps, 1 minute rest, 3 sets
  • Alternating hammer curls with hand near the body (to do this, hold the DB perpendicular to the ground and your arm at a 90 degree angle with your forearm near your stomach instead of at your side, them lift the weight close to your body up to your shoulder and follow the same path down) – 15 lbs dumbbells, 15 reps each arm, 1 minute rest, 3 sets
  • Weight plate pronated curls (hold a weight plate at 11 and 1 o’clock like a steering wheel and go through a full curl range of motion without discomfort) – 25 lbs weight plate, 12 reps, 1 minute rest, 3 sets

Stretch – 10 minutes

Now you are all caught up on what I have been doing and I will give you my plan for the next week:

Today/Friday:  60 minutes on the Stairmaster + Shoulders and abs

Saturday: Posing practice + 30 minute interval run + Back workout + lots of walking around (with the BF)

Sunday: 45 minute elliptical + Heavy leg workout (last leg workout before competition) (with the BF)

Monday: 60 minutes on the Stairmaster + Chest, triceps, shoulders and abs

Tuesday: Morning – Full body workout with Max, Evening – 45 minute elliptical + Back and Biceps

Wednesday: Depletion workout (full body high reps with 1 -2 sets for each muscle group) + 60 minutes on the Stairmaster

Thursday: (maybe) 45 minute of incline walking + hot yoga to sweat out some water

Friday: REST

Saturday: UFE Halloween Mayhem!

Since today’s post is all about the workouts, my next post will be all about the food in the upcoming week since, you know, 80% of how you look is diet 😉

Saturday cardio and self sabotage

I currently sit here drinking a lovely post-cardio shake that I did not take a picture of because it doesn’t look like much, but this is a similar shake from a post of Eat Clean Diet. I looooove chocolate and raspberries together and this is absolutely delicious plus super simple and quick to make.

Raspberry Chocolate Protein Shake

Ingredients:

1 scoop protein powder of choice in chocolate or vanilla (I like BioX Power Whey Complex in Rocky Road)

2/3 c. frozen raspberries (if using fresh, just add ice)

1 c. unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk (or milk of choice)1 tsp. cocoa powder

1 pkg. Splenda or sweetener of choice

  • Directions: Throw everything in a blender (I use my magic bullet) and blend until smooth.

Nutritional Info: Cals – 230   Carbs – 14 g    Fats – 6 g   Protein 28 g

I really didn’t feel like making a huge meal and dirtying up my kitchen at 9 PM but I had just done about an hour of cardio and needed to have something nutritious with a good mix of protein and carbs (only a few).

After my progress pics yesterday I was feeling pretty good about the whole competition diet. But as I start to lose my body fat I find myself getting tired easily. It probably doesn’t help that my workouts are getting longer and I’m adding more cardio. Yet I’m decreasing my food intake. No wonder I’m feeling sluggish. Today was supposed to be a carb up, and I did eat more carbs than on a low carb day but I would call it “moderate” carbs at about 120 g for the day because I really did not feel like hitting the gym hard and couldn’t justify the higher carbs on a lack luster gym day.

Today I went to a baseball game, out to eat and was back at my house around 6 feeling like taking a nap and lamenting the fact that my legs (particularly my bum) were rather sore from yesterday’s glute and hamstring centric workout. The gym by my place closes at 8 PM on Saturdays so I had a decision to make: stay at home and lose a day of working out or drag myself to the gym and get in some kind of workout, good, bad or ugly. Since I was planning on meeting a friend tomorrow to work back and abs, I decided to just do a long cardio session. Not much thought involved in that. A trainer I have been talking to highly recommends the stair mill so that is what I had in mind. I changed into my gym clothes, grabbed a water bottle and my iPod and headed for the gym. It’s about a 15 power walk there which got my heart rate up but also gave me time to think… why was I feeling so lackluster today? Why didn’t I want to go to the gym when it’s usually something I look forward to?

Is this what they are talking about with Self Sabotage???

I really think it is!

Not that I don’t want to succeed, but it’s so much easier to stay on a couch that to walk to the gym and workout for an hour when you are already exhausted. There are a million excuses to not go and a lot of them go through my head daily but normally I love the gym, so it’s not hard to overcome those negative thoughts. Today was a little harder because, well, I hate cardio as I talk about here. So what pulled me through?

A major thing was that I still need to drop my body fat down and only have 4 weeks before the competition. Do I really want to get up on stage in a tiny bikini and not be where I want to be? NO. But that’s not really useful to you guys since most of you don’t have a competition looming, but goals can be incredible motivators. If you set yourself a deadline to achieve something, not sticking to the plan might/will end in you not achieving that goal. I don’t know about you but I HATE failing. Do you have a vacation planned? A fancy event? A birthday coming up? Why not set a fitness goal to achieve by that day? It will help hold you accountable.

The other thing that got me out the door, and this is corny, so I’m sorry, but it was those stupid motivational posters that say things like the hardest step in the one out your front door, and no matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch. I normally don’t need a tonne of help motivating myself. But just thinking about those things made me realize that once I’m at the gym, the tiredness will probably disappear. So I made a deal with myself that I would go for 10 minutes on the stair mill (my goal is to do 50 minutes on cardio days) and if I still felt awful, I could stop. But once you start going it seems like such a waste! You’re already there, you are already sweaty, you already have your heart rate up… just keep going… and I did. I did the whole 50 minutes! It was not my best workout, but I was sweaty and felt much better for having done it. Plus, now I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my carbs today!

So no more self sabotage. Every day counts, I have 4 weeks to go and I will not let myself get in the way of success!

But speaking of carbs… I have another delicious oatmeal recipe from today 🙂

Apple Cinnamon Oats

Apple cinnamon oats

The ingredients are:

  • 1/3 c. large flake oats
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. egg whites
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 a medium apple, diced
  • 1 tbsp real maple syrup
  • a generous amount of cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Combine water, egg whites and oats in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat stirring frequently.
  2. When boiling, turn heat to low and simmer until thick while stirring frequently.
  3. Add the applesauce and apples (i left a couple out to put on top for the picture but if you want a crunchier texture, leave all of them out and stir them in at the end) and stir to combine.
  4. Bring back to a boil until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Serve in a bowl and top with the maple syrup and cinnamon and mix it all in.

Nutritional Information:     Cals – 340     Carbs – 49 g      Fats – 0 g     Protein – 28 g

Trainers are all sadists!

I think it might be a requirement of the job.

Interviewer: Do you like causing people pain?

Prospective Trainer: Yes!

Interviewer: Great, you’re hired!

This is forefront in my mind because last night I had to most intense, draining, painful workout of my life! Seriously, this is not in the rotation for people looking to get fit or who are not slight masochists. Everything was supersetted, all the exercises were variations of traditional ones so they targeted muscles in ways that they aren’t normally targeted, and everything was HARD! I also made the mistake of doing a 12 minute “warm up” that involved some sprinting (note: it’s full on cardio if you end up sprinting) so my legs had already been drained a bit AND I was at the end of my second day of low carbs so I already had little to no glycogen left in my muscles. For those of you not familiar with it, glycogen is stored sugar in your muscles and is the prefered fuel for anaerobic/intense exercises and you can only store between 300 – 500 grams in your muscles at a time. Since I had a total of about 100 g of carbs over the previous 2 days AND had worked out the day before, I am guessing that I didn’t have a whole lot left for this workout.

I will call this The masochist’s leg workout and it went like this:

Superset 1: A – Stiff leg deadlifts   B – Reverse hack squats on the machine with a wide stance

Set 1 – 15 reps each            Set 2 – increase weight, 12 reps each               Set 3 – Increase weight, 12 reps each AND drop set the hack squats for a total of 45 reps

Superset 2:  A – Sumo deadlifts with narrow grip     B – Single leg hamstring curls

Set 1 – 12 reps each, plus 12 “pulses” on curls           Set 2 – increase weight, repeat set 1            Set 3 – repeat set 2 (do not increase weight)

Superset 3:  A – Backward lunges from a step (i.e. start standing on a small step and step back into a lunge) pushing through to a knee raise and squeeze glutes      B – Lunges on the smith machine with front foot far forward and pressure going through the front leg (targets the hamstrings and glutes)

Only 2 sets, both the same – 12 reps each leg, for each exercise with as little rest between as possible

 Superset 4: A – leg extensions          B – Walking half-up lunges (do a full lunge but keep your leg bent as you take the step for the next lunge to keep tension on the muscle to whole time)

Only 2 sets, both the same – leg extension “21’s” (this is where you do 7 full extensions, 7 from the bottom half way up, 7 from half way up to the top), 20 walking lunges with dumbbells if you can.

And that my friends is a KILLER workout in under 1 hour. I have never felt as drained as I did after this and I push myself pretty hard. Trainers have a way of making you go that much more and giving that last drop. I was dripping with sweat and the only superset I made it through without stopping was the first one. After that I would have to stop for a few seconds in the middle of sets because I literally could not do another one. At one point on the smith machine lunges I just sat down because my leg would not support me, took about 5 seconds rest and then kept going. There were multiple times (like 8-10) where I would stop at the bottom of a rep (i.e. mid-way through) and I actually whimpered at the end of my last set of walking lunges… the trainer laughed and said “I love my job”. Then after all that I thanked him profusely!

Who knew I could push that hard?

I also did 30 minutes on the stairmaster after chugging a protein shake with added glutamine in hopes that I would be able to walk this morning, so far so good :).

Ok so now you have the most brutal leg workout of all time… what might you eat after said workout. Obviously some steak!  Only I don’t have a barbecue, so stir fry steak it is.

Super simplified broccoli beef

Broccoli Beef

Ingredients (for 1 serving):

  • 5 oz sirloin or other lean steak cut (I had some leftover steak so I used that)
  • 1.5 cups broccoli florets cut medium or small
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion sliced into strips
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp teriyaki sauce

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet heat oil to high heat
  2. Add onions and sautee until starting to brown (2 mins)
  3. Add broccoli and cover with a lid to stem for 2 -4 mins until bright green mixed every minute or so
  4. Add beef and cook until desired doneness
  5. Add teriyaki sauce and mix to coat evenly
  6. Serve and enjoy

Nutritional Info:   Cals – 400       Carbs – 11 g    Fats – 19 g       Protein – 46 g

This was a pretty large portion but felt just right after that leg workout. If you aren’t on a carb restricted diet, this would go great over some brown rice or quinoa.

Oh and this morning started out as a usual carb up morning does, with a fantastic new combo for oats… Raspberries and cream oats. But I think one recipe is enough for today, so you’ll have to come back tomorrow for that one 😉 If you can’t wait check out this page for recipes.