Back to Basics

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of really broad topic style blogs recently. I really like doing those types of things. Or general updates about goals and plans etc. But it’s been ages and ages since I just posted about food and workouts. So that’s what I’m going to do today!

I’m just shy of 11 weeks out from my next competition and I am not losing weight… I blame my addiction to chocolate PB2 and the Lindt Dark Sea Salt chocolate. I only have max 100 calories worth of either a day… but I’m convinced that’s the reason, mostly because it’s always the things we love that we are forced to give up. Ugh… stupid body. Just be skinny naturally ok?! Deal. Moving on.  🙂

But all in all I have been keeping carbs higher which I actually find hard to do since I can’t eat gluten. So I’ve been eating oats relatively frequently. My normal go to oatmeal recipes is my pumpkin pie oats (yes I know it’s almost April, no I don’t care). But I figured I should try to branch out flavour wise a bit more. My issue is that I like the volume that pumpkin adds to the oats without too many calories.

Cue Zoats.

While perusing instagram I came across a recipe for Zoats or Zucchini Oats and decided to give it a try. My personal favourite flavour at the moment is ginger molasses. Here’s the recipe:

Ginger Molasses Zoats


  • ½ c. Large flake oats

    Some very yummy Zoats

  • ½ c. Egg whites
  • ¾ c. Water
  • ½ large zucchini (about ½ c.) shredded
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger powder)
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste


  1. Combine oats, water and egg whites in a saucepan a bring to a boil on med-high high, stirring frequently with a fork so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
  2. Reduce heat a simmer until desired consistency is reached (about 8 minutes for me) then stir in remaining ingredients and return to a simmer.
  3. Serve and enjoy.

Nutritional Info

Calories – 295      Carbs – 48 g     Fat – 3 g    Protein – 20 g

It’s definitely been a go to breakfast in the past week or so. The ingredients will be scaled down to 1/3 c. Oats and egg whites and Stevia instead of molasses as I cut calories more. It’s a very versatile recipe.

As for workouts. I’ve been doing minimal cardio and lifting really heavy as I love to do. My favourite workouts right now are Back and Bi’s so I’ll give you the layout I’ve been doing for that here. I’ve really taken it back to basics for this. Really just focusing on form and moving as much weight as possible. As always, please keep in mind that I have been working out for many years now. Please do not assume the weights I post are what you should be lifting… it’s just for frame of reference as I am always curious how much other people lift, so I figure someone might find it interesting too.

Back to basics – Back and Bi’s

looking wide 🙂

Warmup – 5 mins either running or rowing (preferably rowing as it actually warms up the back muscles)

  Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
Lat pull downs 100 x 12 105 x 10 110 x 8
One arm DB rows 60 x 10 65 x 8 70 x 6
Supp. bent over BB rows 90 x 10 90 x 10 90 x 10
Rear delt flyes (w. DBs) 15 x 12 15 x 12 15 x 12
Back extensions BW x 12 BW x 12 BW x 12
Dumbbell bicep curls 20 x 10 20 x 10 20 x 10
Concentration curls 12.5 x 10 12.5 x 10 12.5 x 10


Cool down – lots of stretching!

So there we go… a more normal, less rant-y post.

Love and health


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!

Posing is hard… and my legs hurt.

So I had my first posing session with Lisa of Figure911 and let me tell you… it was hard!

My back still hurts (2 days later) as if I had worked out.

On the plus side, my lat spread is actually pretty good. What I have to focus on is my transitions from poses and keeping my hands looking relaxed… and about a million other things, but those were the things I struggled with most. Apparently I do this weird pivoty think instead of stepping to do my quarter turns which looks really funny, but when I tried to correct it I learned that I don’t know my left foot from my right foot… not good. so between my footing and trying to keep my shoulders up and waist in WHILE transitioning through turns, that was definitely the hardest part.

I also have a tendency to flex my wrists up instead of keeping my hands in line with my forearms, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but definitely not as nice looking as a smooth arm. So that will be my focus for practising.

Erin Stern making the front relaxed pose look easy… it is not!

But the most challenging/tiring thing about posing is actually the relaxed pose… relaxed my butt! this is where arching you back until it cramps comes in, not to mention keeping you stomach flexed, pushing into your front leg to flex your calf, rolling your shoulder back and spreading you front lat to pop your delt and give the illusion of a smaller waist and then staying like this while all the competitors do their turns!!!

What was I thinking entering figure?!

I’m so glad I decided to get coaching for this! Hardest part of the competition prep by far… except for this leg workout I’m going to share with you. 😉

I am starting to taper off my “heavy” lifting session and move into higher repetition, high energy leg workouts. Right now that means reps are around 15-20 and I’m doing mostly triple sets, but my rest period between those sets is still reasonably high (90 seconds). I take no rest between each exercise within the triple set. I am still keeping the weights quite high and they are definitely challenging, but not nearly as heavy as I was lifting 2 weeks ago when I was ok with failure at 6 reps.

So here is the workout I did yesterday that has me walking a little funny today.

Triple Triple Set Leg Workout

Warm up: 5 minutes running and dynamic stretching before weights.

Triple set #1 in the squat rack: Load a bar with about 2/3rds you normal squat weight . I normally comfortably squat 155 for 10 reps, so I dropped that to 95 pounds. Also set up a bar for deadlifts behind you with the same weight so you can easily transition between exercises.

  1. Barbell back squat – 15 reps to below parallel
  2. Barbell forward lunges – 16 reps (or 8 reps each leg)
  3. Straight leg deadlifts – 15 reps

Triple set #2  by a bench: Grab 2 lighter dumbells for step ups (I use 2 20 pound dumbbells) and one very heavy dumbbell for the plie squats and the glute bridges. You will be suprised by how much you can lift with these moves. I normally use 100 pounds for plie squats and 80 for glute bridges, but with the higher reps I use 75 pounds for both.

  1. Plie (sumo) squats – 15 reps – ensure that your tailbone stays tucked underneath you during this move and push through your heels to focus on your glutes

    Jamie Eason demonstrating the plie squat

  2. Weight step ups – 16-20 reps (or 8-10 each side)
  3. Weighted glute bridges – 15 reps – puts your shoulders on the bench and hold the dumbbell across your hips, sink you hips to the floor, then flex your glute and push through your heels to straighten your body and bring the weight up.

Triple set #3 with the leg press and hamstring curl machines: Ideally these machines are close to each other in your gym, if not, don’t dawdle while walking between the machines. The weight for this will vary greatly depending on the machines used, so just keep in mind that you will be doing 15 reps and want the weight to be challenging but not impossible.

  1. Hamstring curls (any machine variation, whichever is closest to the leg press) – 15 reps – focus on a slow eccentric (decline) motion
  2. Leg press with feet in shoulder width position, high on the plate – 15 reps
  3. Calf press on the leg press machine – 15 reps (use the same weight for both exercises)

Stretch well for at least 15 minutes.


Progress and workout splits

So I am just over 7 weeks out from my 2nd fitness competition and I weight like 8 pounds more than I did at this point last year :/ So I’m freaking out a little. But looking at the pictures, I look about as lean as I did last year. I’m not sure how confident I am that I actually put on 8 pounds of muscle in a year, but if that’s the case… rock on!

Here are some comparisons from when I was 6 weeks out last year, vs. 8 weeks out this year. I am a little leaner in the 2012 picture, but definitely in a similar spot. So as lot as I give it my all I should be ok, right… RIGHT?! haha

One of the things I’ve changed in my ever evolving plan is the structure of my cardio… I added fasted cardio about 2 weeks ago, and it hasn’t made the scale move, but I feel like it is impacting my leanness, so I’m going to stick with my 40 mins 2 times per week at the moment. I’ll probably increase that up to 60 mins 2-3 times per week by the end and keep my 3 HIIT sessions a week for 15-20 mins a piece. Overall that’s still a LOT less cardio that many competitors do and shouldn’t negatively impact my metabolism.

My calories are hovering anywhere between 1500 – 1800 per day with one cheat meal per week and I have not been systematically carb cycling yet. I plan on doing that starting next week. As I get closer to the stage I will keep my calories between 1500 – 1600 and just cycle carbs not calories.

But the change I’m most excited about (and the one that has nothing to do with weight loss) is that I’m moving to a 5 day split instead of my current 4. Can you guess what is getting its own  day?


Well, shoulders and abs, but shoulders are the thing that I’m excited about if you couldn’t already tell. I’ll probably throw in some biceps there as well since my back workouts seem to be pretty long these days.

And today is my first shoulder workout 🙂 This is what I have planned:

I also plan on doing some HIITs on the stationary bike. I may need some coffee today 🙂 wish me luck for my self imposed torture!

Meme pet peeve

So there are lots of workout memes out there that I absolutely adore and think are super motivating, but there are a couple out there that straight up piss me off. They over simplify things to a fault and may even go so far as to make people feel bad about themselves.

This is my most hated one.

Ugh, really?! A workout is 4% of my day? Ok ya I guess technically if you divide 1 hour by 24 hours you get 4%, point taken. But that makes it sound like you can just slot that workout into any hour of the day! Most people I know don’t have 24 hours of free time. Also, if you have to drive to a gym, get changed, shower etc. the total time investment for the gym is usually closer to 2 hours… especially if you are competing, but lets stick with the super efficient 1 hour workout, which is probably doable for most people just trying to get in shape.

So let’s break down most people’s 24 hour day:

  • Sleep – 8 hours – yes you can totally take an hour out of your sleep schedule to workout, but do that consistently and you will probably GAIN weight and you won’t recover from your workouts properly, not to mention be super grumpy.
  • Work + travel – 9 hours – maybe you can squeeze in a workout on your lunch break and eat at your desk instead? But that probably only works if you have a gym nearby, no gym close and you are out of luck
  • Getting ready in the morning – 1 hour – pretty much non-negotiable  as you need to get up, get ready and get out the door for work, you could prep this the night before and cut it down to 30 mins, but then you’re really just moving the time around
  • Making dinner and eating – 1 hour – assuming you eat with other people or have a family that likes a sit down meal this is not something you probably want to skip, but it’s probably the most “optional” thing on the list

There are of course other commitments, but let’s assume that this person doesn’t have anything scheduled… how many hours are left?

5 hours of “free” time.

So in my mind that means the  1 hour workout really takes up 20% of my day that is available for me to use as I like.  Now having said that that is still a pretty small portion if you really want to get in shape. And let’s be honest with ourselves… how many of us spend 2+ hours a night watching TV or surfing the net?

I really believe that MOST people can make time for working out, but making people feel bad by saying it’s such a small portion of their day makes it sound a lot simpler than it is. How about instead we tell people the truth? Making working out a priority is tough, it’s going to take discipline and you may have to give up one of your nightly TV shows, but if you really want it, it will be worth it.

Which is a nice segue into my favourite and probably most truthful meme of all time:

 No one ever said it would be easy, but it will always be worth it.

And at the end of the day, it is. It’s worth it, so accept that it’s hard, accept that you have to MAKE time for it, accept that you will have to push outside your comfort zone and I PROMISE you will love what happens because:

Step out of your comfort zone.....