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.


Layne Norton and my love of plans

There has been a lot… and I mean A LOT… of talk about metabolic damage and the “REAL” side of the bodybuilding industry recently. It seems like everyone and there grandma is coming out about the fact that the health industry ain’t so healthy. Well I said that from day one 😉 but I’m so glad it’s becoming common knowledge.

I want to weigh in a little bit here. When I prepped for my contest, my calories started at around 1900 12 weeks out and the lowest I dropped was to 1400 2 weeks out (I was lower for peak week, but that doesn’t count because it was like 3 days). I never did more than 50 minutes of cardio at a time and I think I did 2 sessions of cardio twice in my entire prep. Part of that is because I hate cardio, part is because I have a job that rarely stops after 8 hours, but a large part 2 is that I know what marathoners look like and logic told me that long sessions of cardio was probably not the answer.

Me at competition weight

Me at competition weight

Over the course of about 12 weeks I went from 142 lbs to 132 lbs and didn’t really feel to restricted until about 3 weeks out. I personally think I looked great and not to mention I retained a lot of my muscle mass. After the show I gained weight immediately, about 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks and then slowly another 12 pounds. I have had a really hard time trying to get that weight off me even though I’m sticking to my diet and eating less than I was before (about 1800 cals per day).

So, do I think I have metabolic damage? Not really, I think I was stupid and gained weight too quickly for my metabolism to keep up. I also think that my metabolism slowed down through the dieting which is normal, that is why we have plateaus, it’s out body adapting. But I don’t think I did any serious damage.

Over the past few days I’ve read up on a lot of Layne Norton’s papers and VLOGs and the like and even though I don’t think I would say my metabolism has been damaged, it’s definitely slowed down. His work shows that you can rebuild and even drastically increase your metabolism over time by slowly and consistently adding carbs and fats to the diet. And he means slow… like 5 g of carb and 2 g of fat per week! That’s like an extra quarter of an apple and 1 tbsp of 10% cream. He also says that you probably won’t gain weight doing that and that after a year that’s 250 grams of carbs or 1000 calories with minimal weight gain.

So I have a plan!!! I love planning as proven in this post.

While I don’t really want to start gaining any weight at the moment since I am not very lean right, I will try to add in more carbs until my show prep starts so that I have more to cut from. Then after my show, which I plan to do on October 26th, I will follow his protocol and basically reverse diet to to increase my metabolism while staying lean. He says that you might gain about 1 pound per 1-2 months, some of that being muscle, but that you might also not gain weight. Sounds good to me! Then when you want to diet for a show or anything again, you have more calories to work from and you won’t have so much fat to trim in the first place!

If you want to check out Layne Norton’s stuff his website is here.


Playing mind games with yourself

How many of you out there do this?

I definitely play mind games, not with others, but with myself. I am the queen of convincing myself of things!

But the mind is a powerful tool and these “mind games” can be put to good use. Sort of.

It’s really all about outlook.



I had a friend message me on facebook the other day asking for my honest opinion about my mental and physical health after the contest. Well, if I’m being honest, both suffered. I went from enjoying healthy food in moderation and maintaining a rocking physique, to feeling like I had to eat everything in sight IMMEDIATELY because I would be dieting again soon. Except that the feeling of “OMG I must eat ALL the ice cream NOW”, didn’t go away as easily as I had hoped.

I can honestly say that I think I am back on track now (and that includes tracking my food so I can be accountable). There was a mental shift a week or 2 back where I stopped thinking about the imminent “diet” and started remembering my love of health.

I am doing some soul-searching and trying to decide whether I should do the fitness show in the summer as I had planned, or maybe wait until next fall and give myself some more time to prep. I’m hoping that if I come in slower that maybe I won’t rebound as much, both with my weight and my mental state.

Some things that I noticed change in the last 2 weeks that really signaled that I was back in a healthy state of mind were:

– I started looking at myself in the mirror again… naked. (overshare?) When I was in competition form, every morning I would look at myself in the mirror, practice some posing and take an objective look at areas that could lose some fat, areas that need to fill in and areas that I was straight up proud of. But for the past few months I have avoided this because I don’t like seeing the weight gain reflected there. About 2 weeks ago I started looking again and decided it wasn’t that bad, and that I have actually managed to put on a lot of muscle with the unfortunate accompaniment of fat.

– I started weighing myself again. Again, I had a ritual in competition prep and long before that, of weighing myself frequently. I had been avoiding this because I knew that the number would freak me out. But you know what? It’s just a number. I’m not ok with the fact that I have gained weight after my competition, but I can’t just pretend that I haven’t. So the scale has come out of hiding.

I want those abs back!

I want those abs back!

– I started looking back at picture from the contest and planning how to get back there… slowly. Avoid, avoid, avoid! I had stopped looking at pictures of myself and even of some of my fit inspirations on facebook because I just didn’t want to think about it. Maybe I would suddenly look like that again without thinking about it? Ummmmm, no, that doesn’t work.

So now that my head is back to normal, my body will hopefully return to equilibrium too. Once I’m back at my “sweet spot” for my weight (you know that spot where you’re body just naturally likes to chill?) then I’ll evaluate when and how I want to compete next.

There, brutal honesty. Happy Thursday!

Training for gains

In my last post I told you guys that I was planning on competing in an OPA contest at the end of May this year. I may have forgotten to emphasize what is different about this competition from the one I did in October of this year.

UFE (Ultimate Fitness Events) is the organization I competed in this year. They have 5 categories for women and in order of least to most muscle they are:
1. Bikini – just a nice, fit body, not really emphasis on musculature, but must look “toned” and have reasonable low body fat
2. Fitness – good musculature, but half the scoring is based on a fitness routine involving strength, flexibility, agility and grace
3. Fitness model – what you would see in a magazine like oxygen, very fit, but not “ripped”, reasonable body fat, good definition in the muscles
4. Figure – lots of muscle, but reasonable body fat, no muscle striations, emphasis on symmetry and proportion
5. Physique – this is like female bodybuilding, lots of muscle, visible striations, extremely low body fat

I competed in the fitness model category because I have a lot of muscle but was a little intimidated by the posing in figure.

The OPA (Ontario Physique Association) which feeds into the CBBF and then the IFBB which hosts things like the Olympia and the Arnold classic, have the same categories… except the fitness model category.

So I have decided to take on Figure this go around. I think I was actually marked down for the amount of muscle I had. When comparing to the other girls, they may have been a little leaner than me in some cases, but they almost all had a little less muscle mass than me. That’s not saying they weren’t super fit and defined, especially those girls that were leaner than me, but I just carry more muscle.

So with that goal in mind, my training has to increase my muscle a little in certain areas, a lot in other areas and even out in all areas.

My focus areas for the “off-season” to bulk up are:
Shoulders – all heads of the deltoids and upper back
Glutes – get them higher and round out the medius which is the top muscle
Hamstrings – try to even them out and increase the bump to make them stand out more

Those body parts will be trained 2 times per week, very heavy. All other parts will be trained at least 1 time per week.

But wait… how do you even build muscle? It seems like all everyone talks about is losing weight! If you’re lucky someone will talk about specifically losing fat and maintaining muscle mass. Maybe even “trading” fat for muscle… but what about when you want to actively gain muscle?

Here are the guidelines for hypertrophy (specifically muscle gain):

Evidence of Christmas calories

Evidence of Christmas calories

1. Eat more calories that you burn – this is the exact opposite of trying to lose weight. Take your maintenance calories and add about 300 calories per day to gain 1 pound of muscle per week… or, you know, be human around Christmas.
2. Train like a beast! – lift as heavy as you can within a 6 – 10 rep range for 2-4 sets. You need to be breaking down muscle enough to use all those extra calories to rebuild muscle and not stored as fat. Some fat gain is inevitable, especially if you trying to convert Christmas treat into muscle instead of clean foods.
3. Do only enough cardio for fitness – cardio burns excess calories, in weight loss you want that and it will burn off fat as well as a little muscle. When trying to gain muscle, you want those extra calories hanging around to fuel your muscle. HOWEVER, if you are gaining excess fat, you can use cardio to moderate this and limit the fat gains along with the muscle.
After a bulk, you will need to go back and lean down. But cycling this way will allow you to continually gain muscle without too much fat.

Thoughts on post-competition blues

Lately I have been hearing a lot about “post-competition blues” (Tosca just had a blog post about it) which is basically like mini depression that a lot of competitors face after a competition. Olympians and lots of other high performance athletes go through this after they attain a goal. It happens because the process for these things is so long and gruelling, but the actual result or competition is short and over quickly. Then what?

You have been living a life full of structure, limiting yourself, depriving yourself, pushing yourself hard and harder all in the name of this one goal… and then it’s gone!

Here is what happens to a lot of fitness competitors I have been reading about:

  1. They have a serious binge after the competition that usually consists of fast food, chips, chocolate and candy.
  2. They continue to eat unhealthy for days sometimes weeks because they feel they deserve it.
  3. They gain a lot of weight very quickly (a lot is water) and get upset that they lost the body they worked so hard for so quickly.
  4. They stop going to the gym for a few days/weeks all while eating poorly when introducing higher calories could mean great muscular gains, instead they get out of shape and lose muscle
  5. They have nothing to push towards and either vow not to do a competition again OR they immediately sign up for a new competition to try to get that motivation back.

None of these responses are mentally or physically healthy and there are good ways to deal with this. But I am a little worried about how this will happen with me. I decided I need a plan and a new goal to keep myself in check after the competition.

No I am not immediately entering a new fitness competition, at least not right away. I always have a few vague goals, but I think I need a few solid ones to keep me in line. So here it goes:

  • Increase my strength to above where it was pre-competition diet within 3 months
    • 205 lb deadlift
    • 175 lbs squat
    • 115 lb bench press
    • 20 dips
  • Keep my weight under 140 lbs (or approx. Within 7 lbs of my competition weight) consistently
  • Allow myself 2 weeks of “free-er” diet that includes alcohol and grains, but no gluten and no eating beyond full, my post competition meal will be Indian food and ice cream and I will not binge!
  • Look into paleo and consider the Whole30 challenge

None of these goals really have an end date, but they will at least keep me accountable and I will at least be able to let you all know how I do with the eating post contest.

This is what I dream of!

I am really excited about ice cream, and Indian food is great because it’s rice based (gluten free) but salty and fatty, which makes me feel indulgent without giving me a huge tummy ache.

I’m also really excited about my strength goals because after depleting your body and pushing it so hard it is primed to gain muscle if you push yourself. All of a sudden you are actually providing it with enough calories to build muscle and not just spare it. I want to add a little bit of muscle so the next time around I will look even better. You will also be able to make huge strength gains because you are properly fueling your body.

I do not want to turn my body into a waste bin just because I don’t have a goal… so I won’t! But I also recognize that I am currently at an unsustainable body fat % and that it is OK to gain weight after a competition, it is even healthy to gain as long as it’s not straight sugar and fat.

I plan to dial back my training to 3-5 times per week with an emphasis on heavy lifting and to allow myself to cheat with wine and chocolate and ice cream every so often (like 1 – 2 times per week) but I will keep this up… it is a lifestyle, not a diet!

Goals are great. They keep you motivated, but they can also lead to disappointment or confusion when you have finished with them, so if you take one thing from this post today, make this a lifestyle change. It took me 2 years of progressive little changes to be able to diet this strictly without feeling super deprived.

I started out working out 2-3 days per week with very little cardio and lots of strength and slowly increased that to 4, then 5 times per week, so the jump to 6 times or even multiple workout a day didn’t seem the jarring.

I also started by just making simple swaps with my food. I still bought my lunch most days 2 years ago, but I would bring healthy snack like fruit and nuts and only buy lunch, not a bag of mini eggs for a snack. My lunches were jimmy the greek salads and pita wraps, then slowly I transitioned to making lunch a couple days a week, and doubling up what I had make for dinner. Then I started prepping big batched of food and keeping staples like chicken breast and cut up veggies in the fridge. So when competition diet rolled around all I had to do was change what went in the Tupperware and cut grains out. I didn’t go from eating 3 meals a day, buying lunch and eating chocolate every day to a competition diet.

If you jump in too drastically (which I know is oh so tempting to do) you will have great results very quickly! You will start making progress, but you will feel like you are deprived and “poor me, I can’t have sugar!” and then you will cheat, and you will stop that progress and you will not make a lasting change. I have had to sneak up on this whole thing by making one little change at a time. Not everyone is like me, but I think it’s more common than we think. So take it slow and try not to look at this as a negative! Love yourself!

Also, almost entirely unrelated to all this – I have stayed the same weight for 2 weeks now, which is super weird at this point in competition prep, but I look a lot leaner – so don’t pay atention to the scale… they lie!!!