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!

 

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Planning, banana bread and circuits

Wow I’ve been busy. Not quite accounting busy season busy just yet; but definitely, “I have very little time” kind of busy. Yesterday I got home at 8:30 ish after leaving work at 7:45 which is a long day on it’s own, but I had also gone to the gym that morning. I’m so glad I did, because there is no chance I would have gone at 8:30 at night!

I didn’t think I would be working that late so I made a classic error for those of us trying to live a healthy lifestyle… I didn’t pack enough food! I nearly fell prey to my hunger and bought a Kind bar (which are somewhat healthy but LOADED with sugar). But last second I put the bar down and decided that I had already been hungry for 3 hours, I could wait one more and stick to something good for me.

I have talked about the awesomeness that is bacon before… specifically peameal bacon in a healthy diet. Peameal bacon has saved my bacon this week (I’m so funny). Seriously, I have eaten in for Monday breakfast, this mornings breakfast AND last nights dinner. Why? 1) It’s one of the tastiest things ever and is one of few cuts of pork that cooks up super tender and juicy. 2) It cooks FAST. Like I’m starving and need something in my belly in less than 10 minutes kind of fast. Faster if your peameal isn’t cut super thick by your awesome butcher Marlon Pather of Marlon’s Meat…. but more on him later.

Wednesday’s breakfast

Tuesday’s Dinner

Monday’s Breakfast

I  have been eating peameal with a side of greens because I can pull it together in about 10 minutes. That’s key in the morning or when you have been ready to chew your arm off for over an hour already and the dark chocolate and granola you just bought are calling to you, telling you that they don’t even take 10 minutes… they are instant! Sidenote: I may have lost my mind and think that inanimate objects are communicating to me.

Seriously though, get some peameal bacon. You can’t beat a super quick cooking protein. It takes about the same time as eggs but packs more protein and less fat gram for gram.

Anyhoooooo, I have been a bad blogger and promised you guys some things and didn’t get around to it due to the aforementioned business (the 21DSD banana bread and my morning workout from yesterday via twitter).

Paleo/21DSD Banana Bread (based on this recipe from Civilized Caveman)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 bananas (unripe if you are doing the 21DSD like me)
  • 2 eggs plus ½ c. egg whites OR 4 eggs (I only had 2 eggs left)
  • ½ c. almond or other natural nut butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ c. coconut flour
  • ¼ c. almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Combine your bananas, eggs, egg whites, and nut butter, and butter in a food processor or blender or whatever you have that blends/chops things up real nice and transfer this to a bowl to mix the rest of the ingredients in
  3. Add in your coconut flour, almond meal, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and sea salt to the blended ingredients and mix well
  4. Grease a 9×5  loaf pan with a fat of your choice (I used butter)
  5. Pour in your batter and spread it evenly throughout (it will be pretty thick)
  6. Place in your preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (using a metal loaf pan with make the bread cook faster, a glass one will cook slower and your oven is definitely not the exact same as mine, so just use a toothpick to gauge)
  7. Remove from oven and flip your bread out onto a cooling rack
  8. Slice and serve with some salted butter or nut butters on top to add to the deliciousness

I had a pretty large portion of this for breakfast before my workout that I am about to share and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get an cramps or other food related problems while running. Normally if I eat something too dense right before a workout I get a cramp during my run or I feel sick if I workout really hard… but that didn’t happen and it was definitely a hard workout.

Upper Body Circuit plus a some Tabata Sprints

Warm up: walk/jog for 5 mins on treadmill

Upper body circuit: Repeat 3 times with as little rest as possible (mostly just because I didn’t have much time). You will need access to a bench, plus a heavy, medium and light set of dumbbells… for me that means 30 lbs, 15 lbs, 10 lbs, for my friend that was 20 lbs, 12.5 lbs and 7.5 lbs. Choose what is right for you.

  • Lawnmowers (AKA one arm dumbbell rows) – heavy weight, 10 reps each arm
  • Pushups – no weight, 15 reps
  • Bicep curl to Arnold press (start with palms facing forward, curl, at the top of the curl rotate your arm so the palm is forward again, lift your arms straight overhead into a press and then reverse the whole motion) – medium weight, 10 reps
  • V sit-ups on the bench – no weight, 15 reps
  • Seated Rear Delt Flyes – medium OR light weight, 12 reps (I do these with 15 pounds, but the motion itself can be difficult and neuromuscularly hard to learn, you have to target you mid back and not use you trapezius to get through the movement, so if you are new to this exercise, use the light weight)
  • Pec flyes on bench – medium weight, 12 reps
  • Tricep bench dips – no weight, 15 reps
  • Side leg lifts off the bench (AKA side V sit-ups) – no weight, 12 reps each side

*** If you aren’t sure about any of these exercises, head over to Bodybuilding.com and look them up 🙂

HIITs: 2 sets of tabatas

  • Walk 1 minute at 2.5% incline; step off treadmill and increase speed to a sprint (for me it’s 9.0 mph)
  • Perform a sprint set of Tabata: 20 secs running, 10 secs off the treadmill repeated 8 times
  • Slow the treadmill down and walk for 1 minute: Step off the treadmill and increase incline to 12.5% and speed to a hard jog (for me this is 6 mph)
  • Perform a hill run set of Tabata: 20 secs running at a steep incline, 10 secs off the treadmill repeated 8 times
  • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes or until you can actually breath again 🙂

I loved this workout and I finished it off with a protein shake and an apple… no DOMS for me! Yay for modifications to the 21DSD.

Oh and just for randomness sake… crispy bacon is an awesome replacement for tortilla chips when trying to stuff your face with too good to be true guacamole.

Busy, busy, busy!

Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks. I had my boyfriend’s birthday last weekend which basically left no time for anything else; I have been trying to squeeze in seeing as many friend as possible because I kind of ignored people during my contest prep; I am on a couple of jobs for work that are requiring some overtime (I am starting to see a ramp up towards busy season – for the non-auditors out there, usually January to end of March is INSANELY busy… like 14 hour days 5-6 days per week type busy); and I have a thousand chores to do around the house that also got neglected during contest prep. FYI this is my long winded way of apologizing for not posting for a couple of days and pre-emptively apologizing for not posting this weekend because… It’s the Toronto Gourmet Food & Wine Show!

English: Sauvignon blanc wine grape. Location:...

English: Sauvignon blanc wine grape. Location: Vlasotince vineyards, southeast Serbia. Français : Grappe de raisin du cépage Sauvignon Blanc. Photo prise dans le vignoble de Vlasotince, dans le sud-est de la Serbie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to the Ottawa Food and Wine show last year and let me just say that it should be called the wine and food show because there was WAY more wine than food. It was so much fun though. I discovered quite a few wines in all price ranges that were awesome and definitely got my drink on. In order to keep track of which wine’s we liked (really me, because at that time my boyfriend was just starting to like wine) we took a quick picture with our phone. Then when we were like “what was that one from NZ for like $13 that was awesome?” we could go through the photo’s and remember “It was Kato”. True story, it’s $13 at the LCBO (for non-ontario peeps, that’s a really good price since the LCBO over charges for everything), go try it if you like Sauvignon Blanc.

This year we are in Toronto so we are giving the Toronto show a go and have heard good things. I am hoping to find some wines to add to my repertoire of “go to” bottles. In addition, some friends are coming down and joining us which will make it even more fun 🙂

Ok, but on to the actual point of this post, which is time management.

Have you ever heard the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”? It’s true! Sort of. In my experience by busy or not busy doesn’t have a whole lot to do with your ability to get things done. The main factor is structure. Last busy season, I had a client that ran about 7 weeks from start of January to almost end of February. At the beginning we were working until 7pm most nights and that slowly worked its way up to leaving between 9 pm and 11pm during the last few weeks of the job. During that time I did the following:

  • I went to the gym in the morning usually 3 times per week, but at least 2 times every week without fail
  • I ate 5 – 6 meals per day every day and 90% of these were homemade by me
  • I lost about 8 pounds in that time, just over a pound per week.

This is NOT the typical busy season experience because you are sitting in a desk all day, you get your dinner purchased and you are exhausted all the time. Most of my colleagues gained about the same amount of weight, ate take out food almost every night and maybe went to the gym on the weekend but definitely not consistency. So what did I do differently that allowed me to succeed?

I planned.

Oh yes, planning is key. Everyone thinks that having a healthy lifestyle take so much more time than having an unhealthy one. Well I’m telling you it doesn’t. (I’m not talking about competition training because that’s a whole different ball of yarn).

This was what I did:

  1. I worked out in the morning when I can’t make excuses! I’ve written about that before, and while I hate waking up at whatever hour is required, I feel way better the whole day.
  2. I got my boyfriend to hold me accountable. Most mornings I went to the gym, he would come with me. This actually worked out great because on the nights before a scheduled workout, he would come over just before I got home and sometimes would start making dinner 🙂 then we would eat, sleep and wake up early to go to the gym. Since I was working such long hours, this was the most important “us” time and was really helpful in maintaining good communication and really benefitted our relationship in a time that most accountants can tell you is very stressful on relationships.
  3. I made LOTS of food for dinner and then had leftovers for lunch. When I’m less busy I will just make a double batch of something and have one dinner and one lunch. During busy season I will make enough for 5-6 meals because I am typically having dinner at the client or won’t have time to make dinner when I get home.
  4. I had snack that could be kept at work. I would store a bag of almonds and dried fruit, some yogurt and a couple servings of protein powder at the client site so if I didn’t have time to pull together some snacks that day, I knew I would have things available to me at the client without resorting to take out food.
  5. I had a goal! I had planned to compete in a fitness competition in May and oh boy was that some serious motivation to stick with the plan during busy season. When I don’t have a goal, I make excuses, when I have a goal I will go out of my way to make it work.

Now I know a lot of you are guilty of saying, “I don’t have time to make dinner… let’s just go grab take out”. But how long does that take you? You have to get in your car and drive to get the food, bring it back and eat somewhat cold, unhealthy food that you probably don’t even enjoy that much and the whole process probably took 2-30 minutes depending on how far you drove. You now don’t have leftovers and will have to buy lunch tomorrow or make something fresh instead of grabbing Tupperware. AND you could have made an awesome meal in those 30 minutes.

Like I said, it doesn’t take more time to live healthy, what it does take is planning. You need to have good healthy food in your house so when you want to go grab take out, you can instead whip up a quick stirfry because you have everything you need on hand.

Some really fast meal ideas:

–          Stirfry of any sort over rice or quinoa that you cooked a huge batch of so that you will have leftovers

–          Steamed veggies, pan fried chicken or fish and the aforementioned rice or quinoa

–          Egg drop soup in homemade broth

–          Omelettes or frittatas (which you can made in large portions)

–          Oatmeal (even the slow cooking kind take only 15 minutes

Or better yet, made a huge pot of something on Sunday and eat it for dinner for the next 3 days. Think stews, soups, curries, roasts or any other large meal.

So this is what my plan is for this busy season too 🙂 I have roped in a new motivator in the form of my best friend who has agreed to start doing morning workouts 2 times per week with me. I will start increasing the leftovers from the food I make. I will start packing snack that can keep for a few days in my work bag. Plus, I have that goal for motivation because the next competition I want to do is also in May… but more on that to come!

What are your thoughts… do you think it takes more time to be healthy?

Progress photos and work – gym – (no) life balance

After my carb up yesterday I was feeling pretty energetic, though my stomach was bothering me a bit… I wonder what caused that? I managed an awesome leg workout that included deadlifting 205 lbs x 6 🙂 This subsequently caused a trainer to offer me a free leg training session… woohoo! Free stuff for being strong! I had mentally prepared myself to gain back a pound or 2 from the carb up, but I stepped on the scale this morning to a pleasant surprise of no change. Plus it’s friday and my boyfriend is here for the weekend: it’s a good day.

I am trying to get a suit designed for my competition so I needed photos from front, side and back to email to the designer which my boyfriend kindly took. What was interesting for me was the huge difference between standing regularly and posing… look.

Unposed front shot

Posing (ignore the fact that I look like I’m falling to the left)

Who knew my thighs were so big?

I thought I would talk a little bit about balancing training and life. I will be frank, it’s pretty hard to do. I saw someone laughingly refer to their training schedule as “work-gym-no life” balance, and sometimes that’s how I feel. Yesterday I left my house at 8:00 am, worked until 5:45, went straight to the gym (getting there arround 6:30), worked out until 8:15 then drove home while scarfing down my dinner un-microwaved. I got home, made some hard-boiled eggs and random other stuff for my meals today, picked up some groceries and didn’t get to bed until 11:15. Not much down time in there at all. But I have also gone out to dinner this week, had a friend over for dinner, and exercised every single day, while working overtime at work.

Some of the things I do to make the most of my time are:

  • Make gym-time, social-time. I have done a morning leg workout with a friend outside or gone to the gym with my boyfriend in order to get more time with them. Not only is this more enjoyable, but I find myself more motivated and pushing harder because  I know someone is watching me.
  • Do more intense workouts. The more intense the workout the less time it will take you and therefore the more time you will have to do other things. There are times when I want to do 45 minutes of walking and an hour plus weight session and I love those, but sometimes a tabata sprint and 30 minute circuit is more effective and way more efficient.
  • Cook in batches. I usually make twice the amount I need for dinner and that is my lunch the next day. For snacks I usually cook a big batch of meatloaf muffins and have nuts and other snack items on hand that can be thrown together quickly the night before. Vegetables that require no prep (like snap peas or baby cucumbers) form a large part of my packed food because they are easy to put together. You shouldn’t have to prepare every single meal and snack from scratch each day.
  • Do at home workouts. For abs, chest and sometimes legs I will frequently train either just outside or in my house. Monday I had a friend over for dinner and for 15 minutes before she came I did a series of push ups at different angles and stances to hit different areas of my chest and triceps. It was quick and very effective. Don’t do this all the time, but it is definitely better than no workout.
  • Have friends for dinner at your place. This has multiple benefits. (1) you are in control of the food and can choose to make it as healthy as you want, (2) you don’t have to waste time travelling anywhere or waiting for a server to get your order, (3) your friend will be grateful that you went to the effort of making them dinner! Win, win, win!
  • Walk places. Have you ever noticed how little we walk? It’s ridiculous, if you can’t get to the gym, at least go for a long walk at lunch. You will probably feel better for the rest of the day and you’ll be burning more calories than sitting at your desk. Also, get up every hour or so and walk around; getting water is usually a good excuse. This one is hard for me when it gets cold, but I do try.

I work long hours at a desk job and try to still have a social life, so I employ all these tricks. My days meals are prepared the day before and I rarely miss a workout (if I do it’s usually the cardio component :/ ) It’s hard work and takes planning, but it’s not as difficult as you think… think about how much time you spend watching TV or fooling around on the internet. You probably don’t want as much muscle as I have or to train 5 days a week… but I am an extreme case, you can certainly reach your goals, whatever they are, which some foresight and a few good tricks.

While I’m not nearly as angry as whoever write this, that last line has a lot of truth.

And here are my progress side and back shots. I’m about 5 weeks out from the competition (UFE Halloween Mayhem) and want to lose about 8 more pounds. Wish me luck!