Transforming Into an Athlete in the Second Part of Life

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The first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  I’m now 54.

Some people say my age is an irrelevant point about me as an athlete, but they are wrong.  It’s extremely relevant.   I was a fully formed adult with scars and strengths from living life before I decided to live a completely different way.  And my decision impacted a lot of people who thought they knew who I was before I decided to be someone else.  I’m still working on making sense of all this.  Something yanked my chain this last week and I need to write to figure out what I think about things.  Sorry – I need to be a bit cryptic about it because it’s private.  But I believe humans have similar responses to things, even if details are different.

Please forgive me for veering into the past for a moment.   If what I’m going to say later is going to make any sense, I need share parts of my personal history.  I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I don’t want to give the impression that I think my life has been difficult.  It’s just been a “life”.  But these things are a bit relevant to why I think what I think as I keep transforming into an athlete in the second half of my life…

  • My scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school and I was pulled from all sports. I was told to be “careful” for the rest of my life.  Between the ages of 17 and 24, I had at least two episodes when my back would freeze up and I could not move for about a week.  I remember my mother pushing me around in a wheel-chair at the hospital to get x-rays.   I believed all the adults who told me I was fragile.
  • In my 20’s, I got a job at a gym as a receptionist. That’s when I first saw female bodybuilders in magazines.  They were about my age, but they looked so strong – not fragile.  I wanted that, but I was intimidated by it for a couple of really good reasons.  1) I have scoliosis and shouldn’t lift, and 2) women aren’t supposed to look like that – guys didn’t like it.  I didn’t question those beliefs at the time.  I accepted them and set other goals for my life.
  • My mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 and I was 28.  I was the family member who was tasked with the decision to remove her from life support.  I watched her die.  I know some of you have had to do that, too.  It’s not exactly like how they show it in movies or on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • I decided to get a degree in mathematics and teach math because I was intimidated by it. That was when I began to do battle with my fears.  The time span from my first day of college to my graduation with a degree in mathematics was 16 years.  Mom died during this time and I lost my job because I needed to take a leave of absence to handle my mother’s affairs out of town.  Once I could get back to work, I had as many as three part-time jobs to support myself and still have a schedule flexible enough to attend school during the day when the classes I needed were offered.  This was the first time I set a scary goal and achieved it.
  • For the last 20 years, I’ve taught math to teenagers, ages 15-18. Takes a little courage to show up and do that every day.   Not many adults would want to attempt to manage a room of 30+ teenagers.  Fewer can handle it when a whole bunch of them are anxious about what you are asking them to do.  Math teachers are in short-supply these days.  Burn out is high.  Many students believe they will fail before they try, so they won’t try.  They will do a lot of other things to avoid trying.  While teaching geometry, I teach a lot of other things, too.

And that brings me back to my first point – the first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  All of these other things happened years prior to that.

To decide to become a female bodybuilder at that point in my life, I had to challenge and beat down a lot of my own thoughts about what women can do, what a person with scoliosis can do, what a busy teacher can find time to do, and what a post-menopausal woman can accomplish in bodybuilding.  I’m not saying my journey has been harder than someone else’s, because I know it hasn’t been.  There is no comparison to what others have had to deal with to just get through another day.  I have not had to survive trauma.

That said, I’ve still accomplished enough hard stuff to feel like I can do more.  It’s my journey.   I’ve already lived a life and I’m still in the mix.  My ego tells me that I should be respected for that, but I can’t control what others say or think.  (Yeah, something happened a couple days ago. I was hurt by it, but I learned something useful.)  I remind myself what I’ve done to get here.  My ego wants to puff up – that’s what others do, right?  But that’s not going to help me do anything except become an asshole.  I don’t need to defend my thoughts.

I am sensitive.  I am scared.  I am brave.  I reflect.  I learn. I overthink.  I lose my focus sometimes, but I get it back.  I tell my ego to shut the hell up.  She just wants to generate negative thoughts that feed uncertainty about whether I will ever have tangible success as an athlete.  I may always be a novelty act in public, she tells me.  Ageism is alive and well, we all know that.  Is that my only obstacle?  Of course not.  But it’s there.  I can’t get younger, but I can improve.  I may always be switched to the outside of the youngest, most novice bodybuilder in the line.  If I’m a better bodybuilder than I was the last time I showed up, I guess that’s going to be enough.  My voice may shake when I say “my journey on my terms“, but I’m still saying it.  I’m still insisting on it.

“Why bother?”  I ask myself almost every day.  Almost every day, I quit.  And then I recommit to what I’m doing as an athlete.  The last year has been difficult.  I may not be able to break this cycle until after I compete again.  That last competition experience needs to be replaced by a new one before I’m going to get closure on what happened that day.  Simply getting on stage again will be a win because I will be able to put away two years of trying to make sense of what will now be called the “2015 WTF Happened? Blesson”.

And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity.  I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym.  Lifting still fixes me.  I love to train.  That’s why I bother.   Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal.

 

 

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Filed under Competing, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

Menopause, Weight Loss, and Training

This is a useful, informative post.  Please share it and save it for reference later.

My friend, Colin DeWaay, loves to read research more than I do, so I asked him to look for the science being done on how menopause changes how our bodies respond to weight training.  We also know there is something different about how we store fat and how long it takes to lose it.  Too often, menopause is discussed as if it were a disease -as if aging were a disease – which neither are because continuing to be alive is actually NOT a disease… (Oops – off my soapbox now.)  One thing that did not come up in the research, but that I strongly believe is an issue for us, is cortisol.   I believe there is a link between increased cortisol and menopause.  And I also believe cortisol may be increased by life stress that comes with being a female of a certain age with all sorts of adult responsibilities to juggle – and then add sleep-deprivation to that mix.   I suggest you look around online for more information about cortisol.  There is research out there about it, but maybe it’s not been specifically studied in combination with menopause very often?  I have seen it studied as a result of sleep disturbances… Hello?  Night sweats? ~ Tammy

 

I have to be honest. I’ve been dragging my feet writing this article for a long time. After my last blog about getting the most out of an online coach I actually planned on writing about weight loss for women in their 50’s. Then Tammy reached out to me wondering if I’d write about weight loss, muscle growth, etc. in menopausal women. So it only made sense, only one problem. As a 37-year-old male without an extensive background in this subject, who am I to tell you what to do?

Well I guess because it’s my job (my certification and the text books I’ve read cover this but it’s SO small) and I do have a large number of clients who fit this demographic. But at the end of the day all I can do is empathize and teach what I’ve discovered. I can’t know what it’s like or how it feels on a personal level, however, I want to help people the best I can, so let’s do this. (Side note even if you’re a women not even close to menopause, you could likely get a lot out of this article.)

So with that I set out to scour through PubMed to gather as much relevant information I could. After searching and searching, reading and reading, putting together as much data as I could, wanna know what I found? Well for one I think there’s a severe lack of data on this demographic, which is actually something I’ve noticed on my own. Whenever I get a unique problem with a client the first thing I do is try to find data to help give me answers. Rarely is there much out there in the way of menopausal women, which even researchers seem to agree with. (1)

The other thing I’ve found? If you’re a menopausal/postmenopausal woman, this stuff’s probably going to be tough…. Really tough. Probably not what you wanted to hear I’m sure, but don’t stop reading now. Even though it’s likely going to be more difficult for you than many others, it’s also more important than ever you get a handle on things. Even if the odds are stacked against you. Let’s discuss.

Due to many hormonal changes that occur during menopause, the risk of raising body fat increases significantly. Sitting around being inactive and eating whatever you want is a recipe for things to get worse in a hurry. With that comes the increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, at least partially due to increases of fat within the abdominal cavity (AKA visceral adipose tissue or VAT.)(2)  In a nutshell, research shows that post-menopausal women are at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases since VAT is considered a correlation and they are more prone to store fat in that area, even if total fat loss is the same during a weight reduction program. (3)

Another major player that hardly anyone ever talks about is the importance of minimizing loss of bone mineral density (BMD.) Likely due to significant drops in estrogen women in perimenopause might experience up to a 3% loss of BMD a year if they aren’t active or on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and can even carry on post menopause. This is why osteoporosis is such a problem in older females. Since the loss of BMD can be slowed with heavy resistance training, this is just one more reason to lift weights. For those who haven’t reached their upper 30’s yet (around the time women start experiencing a loss in BMD) it’s all the more reason to start heavy strength training NOW.

The good news? Aging does not appear to reduce the ability of our bodies to adapt to strength training. Improvements in BMD as well as strength, power, muscle mass and functional capabilities have been observed in older people participating in strength training programs. (4, 5, 6) Basically no matter where your starting point is or how old you are, you can make improvements. Just proof that it really never is too late to start.

Before I go on I’d like to say one quick thing about HRT, this gets thrown around a lot. This is NOT something I can suggest nor should anyone tell you whether you shouldn’t or shouldn’t go down that path. That is something for you and your doctor to discuss if it’s the right thing for you or not. I’ve heard of other trainers telling their clients they need to get HRT and that is NOT okay. I’m not, nor is any other trainer qualified to make that assessment.

Anyway, what do most experts recommend as an effective method to prevent obesity or reduce body fat during menopause? Well, diet and exercise of course. (7) One study took 439 overweight-obese postmenopausal sedentary women and assigned them into one of 4 groups. Basically there was a group that dieted only, exercised only, dieted and exercised and a control group. After 1 year not surprisingly the diet and exercise group did the best losing 10.8% of their body weight, followed by 8.5% for the diet group, and 2.4% for the exercise only group. (1)

As you can see fat loss is most definitely possible for postmenopausal women, it’s just likely results are going to be slower than you’d like. You MUST be okay with this, and focus on a plan you find to be sustainable. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, the time is going to pass anyway. The unfortunate truth is if you’re unhealthy now, it’s only going to get worse if you don’t do anything about it. This is why I said it’s more important than ever to get serious because the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle will pile up a lot faster when you become menopausal.

Again don’t get me wrong, I definitely empathize with you ladies. I really do. You were dealt a tough hand and I can’t pretend to know what it’s like. Set aside for a moment all the physiological reasons obtaining and maintaining a healthy body is likely more difficult, you have to add on all the factors that make training and staying mentally in the game tough. Things like hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, menstrual irregularity, lowered sex drive, mood swings/irritability, etc. Also dealing with the emotions that come with no longer being able to conceive and everything else that comes when your body changes on you. ALL of life’s stressors, mental and physical, add up and need to be factored in.

This stuff goes WAY beyond just physical change. You have every reason in the world to feel like it’s impossible. You have every right to feel like you should give up. But I’m telling you right now, DON’T.  You don’t have to be perfect, hell you shouldn’t even TRY to be perfect. I’d actually argue it’s more important to be more flexible at this stage. You have a lot of things to deal with and work around, so factor that all in. The worst thing you can do is go down the all or nothing path. Because all or nothing ALWAYS ends in nothing.

That said, now more than ever is it important to take care of yourself. Your body is fighting against you and you basically have two choices. Lay down and let it take you out, or fight back. Go ahead, feel your feelings, you can’t control how you feel and there is NOTHING wrong with the way you feel. But you CAN do something about what you do about it. I wouldn’t be doing you any good if I said “It’s okay, it’s going to be hard so go ahead and give up” and more importantly you don’t want to tell yourself that.

Time and time again people (much like Tammy herself) have shown that it absolutely can be done. Results may come slow, it may be difficult, but it’s literally life and death stuff here. Don’t take it lightly. Start slow, allow for sufficient recovery, make small changes, keep learning and getting better and if you need help by all means get help. Regardless, like Tammy always says, “Just keep showing up.” Remember, it may suck that it’s more difficult for you than others, but reality is reality and you can’t change it. The best thing you can do is deal with it from a place of acceptance. Otherwise you’ll just end up fighting yourself the whole way.

The last thing I’d like to say is if you are a woman who has yet to get to this stage of your life. Do yourself a favor and get started! As you can tell it’s only going to get more difficult and the sooner you can get ahead of things the easier and healthier you’ll be in the long-run. Nothing is more effective than prevention.

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If you ARE looking for a coach to help take the guess work out and hold you accountable I am accepting clients for training and/or nutrition help. Just head here and select the option you’d like.

If you’re looking for more information you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance and a kick in the rear from time to time. WARNING – I tell you what you NEED to hear and not what you WANT to hear. So if you’re sensitive and like to place blame instead of take action, you’ll definitely want to pass. But if you’re serious about taking responsibility and changing your life, you should love it.

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Filed under Cortisol, Guest Blog, Weight Loss

Binging On Audio Books

A year ago today was the day before my most recent competition and my nerves were off the charts.  I was unpleasant to be around.  I ended up having an EPIC anxiety attack that evening, sat in the bathroom of the hotel, texting my coach who calmed me down a little.  The next day, I had the most humiliating public experience I’ve had in my life.  You know that nightmare where you go to school in your underwear?  Yeah.  That.  To say my ego was dented and damaged – well that’s accurate.  I’ve spend the last year trying to sort things out.  If I were a normal person, I’d probably walk away from this sport.  But I’m not normal.  I’m stubborn.  And I love this sport.  What happened was a little bit shitty, yes, but it shouldn’t have rocked me like that.  Something about it kicked every single insecurity I’ve got like a gut shot.  No – more like drilling a tooth before you’re numb.  I did not see it coming.

After a few years of investing in my physical health and discovering that competitive bodybuilding added value to my life, I came home from that show wondering if I had it in me to ever step on stage again.  A long time ago, I promised myself to never let fear define me, or rather, never let fear stop me from doing something I wanted to do.  Unless I break that promise, I have to do this work now, too.  I might blog about the things I’m learning and how I will apply them, but I’m not sure yet if that’s something I want to share publicly.  A big part of my work is to disengage my ego and just do the work.  Haven’t really reconciled how to share that process in public yet.

However, the list of books I’ve devoured might have some value for others.  All audio.  I don’t have time to read, but while I’m grading, walking, or driving, I listen and learn.

Here is a list of the audio books in my Audible library that I have found the most enlightening.  “Enlightening” in the sense that I enjoy uncomfortable self-reflection and forced psychological growth.  Putting introspection on Beast Mode, I guess.  Hahahahaha!  They are in order of how I listened to them.  In some way, each book led me to the next.  Some I’ve listened to a few a couple of times.  I revisit parts when it seems I need a refresher on that particular lesson.  Each time I listen, I pick up something new.

Almost all have had an impact on my teaching, too.  I think that’s what has hooked me the most.  While following my own instincts about what I want to learn personally, I’ve enriched my practice as a teacher of teenagers.  I had a conversation with someone once who said he thought we were all stuck at 17 on the inside forever.  That might be true.

The last book, “The Ego is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, has been the most beneficial in addressing my competition experience, but I don’t know if I was ready to hear it until after I had listened to the others.  It also wasn’t published until last month, so it wasn’t available.  It’s probably that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” thing, huh?

I’m grateful for the lessons in all of these books.   I got something from each.  (It’s a bit overwhelming to see the list together – this isn’t even all of them.  Just the best ones.  And there were a few fiction books in the mix over the last year, too.  Brain needed a break every so often.)

Pictures are linked back to Audible descriptions for each book.  Just click…

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Filed under Competing, Life, Teaching

Reasons Why I’m “Doing It Wrong”

If you follow fitness pages on social media, you will see many messages that fall into that “go hard or go home” theme.  They are success stories.  They walk into the gym, abs a blazin’, and are pushing to the limit EVERY.SINGLE. DAY.

I don’t do that. I can’t do that.

Here are few reasons why I’m doing this thing “wrong”.

REASON #1: I do as little work as possible.

I don’t go “beast-mode” in the gym.  I used to.  And I got hurt.  Twice.   Not serious injuries, but they still nag at me.  Lifters get hurt – that’s true.  But actively choosing to avoid injuries means I can keep lifting without interruption or work-arounds.  There is a difference between the loads my muscles can handle and what my connective tissues can handle.  Those little pieces and parts have been moving me around for over 54 years – I am always conscious of that.  Random strangers sometime feel the need to offer critique about how I do a movement, and that’s OK because they have helpful intentions.  They might not realize that I actually do know what I’m doing.  Range of motion is a connective tissue issue for me and I send video to my coach to analyze almost weekly.  We both know that over the long term, things have improved and will continue to improve.  Nothing good comes from rushing a biological process.  My body never lets me get away with that.  I also found a coach who shared my perspective and he keeps me healthy.  (Knocking on wood as I type…)  Now I just show up, do what I’m supposed to do that day.  No more, no less.  Every 4th week, a deload is programmed in whether I feel like I need it or not.

If you’re a teacher, this analogy might make sense – think about IEPs and least restrictive environment.  I do as little as possible to get the results I want.  There is nothing further for me to gain by breaking down more tissue and increasing my recovery time.

REASON #2: I eat ice cream every day.

I worked hard in the beginning to redefine “food”.  When I started, I put everything on the psychological table, so to speak.  I got help and learned what nutrition was all about.  I had to develop a new habit of measuring and tracking.  I do believe micronutritents saved me – I remember when my paradigm shifted.  I had just read about cellular regeneration and BOOM!  It hit me.  I could change every cell in my body by consistently providing better nutrition. That was when I became a clean-eating zealot.  Apparently, upon reflection, I needed to be an a-hole for a while.  Sorry.  I was obnoxiously passionate about what I was learning and I also needed a little validation.  I believe it was just an awkward, emotional, necessary part of my journey.  Eventually, I grew weary of feeling like a food martyr who only ate foods on a short list of “approved” items.  I started to research and learned more.  I learned about macros.  I also learned that because of how I trained, because of how I changed my body composition, not only could I incorporate some of “off-limit” foods back into my life, I knew I could control them, and my body used them differently.

I asked my coach (Alberto Nunez, 3D Muscle Journey) if he thought I had any emotional issues with food.  Paraphrasing, he said “No.  You use food as a tool.  You know when it’s necessary to be precise and you know when it’s OK to relax.”  Please know that I do have days when I’m HUNGRY.  Those are planned and necessary for what I’m doing.  It’s also a natural physical response for hormones to trigger hunger when precious fat stores are being used.  Bodies don’t like that.  Bodies want to be plump and ride out the famine.  My body has not evolved itself to support my first-world goal of improving my conditioning as a bodybuilder.  I still believe micronutrients in veggies are my bestest buddies for recovery and general health, but because I eat a little ice cream each day (until I’m deep in contest prep and I don’t want to), that tub of cookie dough has lived safely in our freezer for almost a year.

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REASON #3: I don’t cut water when I compete.

After I did my first show, I started researching how to compete without cutting water.  I did a water cut again for my 2013 show and that just confirmed for me that I would rather quit competing than cut water again.  It’s just not something I choose for myself.  I’ve worked very hard to get off the path of health complications that I was traveling back in 2009, so cutting water, using water pills (or even fat burners, for that matter) just doesn’t fit into my personal philosophy of how I’m going to live.  I continued to research and learn.  That research eventually led me to my coach.  More and more competitors are learning the science behind a peaking process that makes it unnecessary to cut water.  It’s actually counterproductive because I looked flat on stage when dehydrated.  For the 2015 show, I had a water bottle off stage and was drinking as we were being called out for prejudging.  Yes, I did gain some muscle between those two shows, but if you look at the 2015 conditioning, drinking water didn’t have a negative effect.  To improve my stage conditioning, I need to focus on improving my body composition gradually over a long time.  Just that.  Nothing else.

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REASON #4: I won’t do whatever it takes to improve in my sport.

I’m competitive, but I’m working to keep that drive focused on things I can control.  There is a list of things in my head that I won’t do.  I believe I can do this thing on my terms, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m curious to see what I can accomplish doing it the way I want to do it. I’ve seen this sport wreck people and relationships.  I can understand why the stakes would seem higher for younger people.  Me?  Hell, I’m going to be 55 and one year closer to retirement the next time I post a new stage picture.  To me, I’m in the prime of my life right now.  To the fitness world, I’ve been called a grandma.  (Not blessed with kids, btw, so I’m not literally a grandma.)  I hope the lessons provided to me by the Universe about the irrelevance of my ego are over, but if I have more to learn, I that’s OK.  Seriously.  What do I have to lose if I earn a 4th last place?? Nothing.  What do I have to gain if I win an overall?  Nothing really.   The shows and the pictures are cool, but they are not the endgame.  Progress is the endgame. The true endeavor is to show up each day and recommit.  There is joy that for me, but not all the time.  Passion ebbs and flows.  I’m still motivated just to see what is around the next corner.  In some ways, it’s a very long game of strategy of me vs me.  Win/win or lose/lose depending on how I play, right?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, Nutrition, Opinions

The Importance of Mindset To Do Scary Things

Still working on developing a consistently positive, growth mindset about when I compete again next summer.  Now that it’s a little less than a year out, nerves switched on this week. If that seems like an odd problem for a competitive bodybuilder to have, check out this blog because in it I briefly describe what happened the last time I was on stage.  The discovery path I was set on because of that experience has changed my teaching practice and my life, I guess.  For that, I’m grateful.  Still, my “fight or flight” response gets a bit stuck in “flight” when I think about another sticky spray tan, posing suit, and stage experience.  I told my coach this week that I’ve developed a little learned helplessness about what I’m going to be able to accomplish in this sport.  I call it that because I recognize in myself what I see in my students when they come into my classroom to take a geometry exam.  “I’m going to fail”, they tell me. What do I tell myself?  “I’ve been placed dead last three times.”  “My pelvis is too wide.”  “My shoulders are too narrow.”  “I’m too old.”  All of these are my version of “I’m going to fail, so why bother?  Who am I kidding?”   And nothing anyone says is going to change ‘reality’, right?  You know how this goes.  It’s uncomfortable to admit, but we all do it at some time about something.  That is a sign of a fixed mindset about one’s ability to do a particular thing.  Working towards a  growth mindset allows for the “I’m not ready, but I can improve” attitude.  Once I recognize it, I can deal with it.  Trick is to catch it before I end up ruminating on it.  I’ve been going back and forth on this one for almost a year now.

Thank you, readers, for hanging with me while I work through these things.  I don’t expect this to be resolved until after I’m on stage again.  Oh and, I kid you not – as I type this, I’m watching a baby bird through the blinds of my window.  She will be ready to fly soon and is tentatively exploring the opening and perch of her birdhouse.  And…she goes back in.  Not ready yet.  Hope she doesn’t decide there is no point…

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Way back in 2010 when I first set my mind on bodybuilding as the “big, scary goal”, I wasn’t a person who had any business making a goal like that.  Almost EVERYTHING had to be changed – how I ate, had to make time to train, and I had to retool all my routines about teaching because I no longer had time to bring work home.  I’m still married to the same wonderful man, but he was forced to make some adjustments because his wife just up and decided that she was going to be a bodybuilder now.  What was I thinking?  How would I do this thing?  The mental game was so hard then!  Looking at what I’ve done, it seems really silly to still be fighting dragons, but I’ve obviously developed a habit over the years of falling back into negative self-talk when I’m insecure and doubtful.   Back then, I put a small bulletin board up in my bathroom and filled it with motivational quotes that meant something to me.  Basically, I left myself reminders where I would see them to counter negative thoughts with positive ones.  I think I will do that again.  And I just happen to have a bigger bulletin board!

Something else occurred to me this morning while I was at the gym.  It would be useful for me to mentally redefine what is real for me about being on stage and then rehearse those thoughts.  I’ve competed three times.  I know how warm it is under the lights.  I know what it smells like – a mixture of spray tan and hairspray.  I know what the stage feels like under my feet.  I know I can’t see much past the first two rows in the audience without my glasses (which is a blessing).  I can completely visualize it now, which is a plus.  My thoughts up there are loud.  I can create a new set of thoughts to put with that visualization.  When I got home from the gym, I wrote this out.  I don’t think this is final form.  At some point, I’ll print it, laminate it, and put it up on that bathroom bulletin board.

I’m here to celebrate.

I celebrate the joy and gratitude that I finally get to do this.

I celebrate the useful, purposeful pain that forced growth and renewal.

I celebrate the courage I found minutes ago to walk out and stand here.

I celebrate the discipline to push myself to do things I could not do when I was a younger person.

What you see is the PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION of my MINDSET.

I’ve overcome obstacles to be here.

I’ve slayed dragons.  I got back up when dragons slayed me.

See those people there?  The judges?  They have a task to do for the promoter of this show.  I am not here for them and what they do is not my concern.  I’m here, on this stage, on this day, for my own reasons.

I’m here for the people who love me, who inspired me, who helped me, who believe in me, and who need me to be here.

I’m here for my mom.

I’m here for the pictures that will document the inner strength the struggle built.

I’m here to show others how to slay dragons, too.

I’m here to celebrate.

 

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Filed under Competing, Life, Motivation

Online Coaching – How to Get the Most Out of Working with a Good Coach (And how to tell if you have a bad coach)

In response to questions from people on the Facebook page a little while ago, I asked Colin to write this blog about online coaching.  Online coaching is an affordable option to working with a trainer in person.  Personally, I’ve done both and think each has its place.  When I first started lifting, I was worried about getting hurt and was intimidated at the gym.  I felt I needed to work with someone in person to get started.  However, technology has advanced to a point that has allowed online coaching to become a good alternative if you have some experience and aren’t a complete fearful mess like I was back in the day.  Because my online coach (Alberto Nunez, 3DMuscleJourney) only works with competitive athletes,  I asked my friend Colin to write about this topic since he has more experience working with people who have general health and fitness goals.  

As someone who is not only an online coach but also has an online coach, I have perspective from both sides of the coin. A lot of people seem to have interest in getting help and taking the guess work out of training and/or nutrition and in fact many do hire themselves a coach, but how do you make sure you get the most out of your investment? That’s exactly what I want to talk about today.

As I mentioned I have my own coach despite being a coach myself and many of the greatest coaches in the world (no I’m not calling myself one of the top coaches by any stretch) have their own coach too. No matter how much knowledge you have on a topic for many people you are just too invested in your own results and you have a tendency to do things you know better than because it’s YOU. You are too emotionally invested in yourself, most people are, coach or not. However, this is not meant to be an article explaining many of the benefits a coach can bring but more a way to make sure you get everything you can from one if you do decide it’s for you.

Before I get into that, however, I do feel it’s my duty to make one thing very clear. No matter how good a coach is they can’t get you results via osmosis. You MUST be prepared to do the work. A good coach can certainly simplify the process and help you get the most out of your efforts but no matter what you have to do the work. If you’re looking for the next “thing” that will work for you so you don’t have to work hard, hiring a coach won’t get you anywhere. You’ll just be left frustrated, and so will your newly hired coach. I hate to say it (okay no I don’t) there are no magic pills. So if you’re not ready to dig deep and work on yourself, save yourself some time and money. Now with that said, let’s dig into what you can do to make sure you get the most “bang for your buck.”

  1. Communication, communication, communication

Yes, this is worth stating multiple times. Honestly I could easily have made this entire article about communication and it will be a huge portion of it. It’s without question the most important part of a client/coach relationship. This can be taken in many ways. First you have to be totally open and honest with your coach. Your coach (or at least a good coach) won’t berate or criticize you if you slip up, end up in a massive binge, miss workouts, whatever. But they do need to know exactly what’s going on to best be able to help you. Sure we want you to follow the plan and do well, but if you don’t it’s you that you ends up hurting, not your coach.

Make sure to send your check in on time. If you’re not doing the work and get in a bad place mentally, tell them. Good or bad your coach needs to know what’s going and NEVER assume they know what’s going on, they can’t read your mind. If you keep information from your coach he/she will be left blind and could possibly even make things worse. If you’re eating more calories than you say you are and you aren’t getting results, your coach may reduce calories and/or add in more work to compensate when unnecessary or even put you in a reverse diet when it’s completely unnecessary.

Along the same lines you should never feel like you are “bugging” your coach by asking them questions. You hired this person for a reason. You are PAYING them your hard earned money, use them! You should never feel bad for wanting your questions answered or even questioning why they do things the way they do. A good coach will explain why they do things the way they do anyway and if a coach ever says something along the lines of “Just do what I say” you need to fire them immediately.

Remember there is no such thing as TMI. We need to know everything INCLUDING outside factors. Yes, being extremely stressed out at work or depressed or other stressful things in life can and will absolutely make a difference in your programming as well as help explain things with your training that may otherwise not have made sense. This doesn’t mean you have to or even should explain every detail of your life and treat your coach like a counselor, but they do need to know if there’s something going on that could impact focus, hormone levels, recovery, etc.

  1. Take advantage of EVERYTHING they offer

A big mistake a lot of my clients make is not taking advantage of certain services that come with my coaching. The most common one being form critique. I set them all up on a training space with an app called Edufii where they can take video of their technique and send to me to take a look at. The biggest downside of an online coach over a live trainer is we can’t be there to see how things look and guide you on the spot. So not only is it in your best interest for your safety, but also to make sure you’re working as efficiently as possible too.

I know for a lot of people it’s uncomfortable taking video in a gym setting. And some clients can be uncomfortable sending progress pictures and things of that nature. These things are in place for a reason and as previously mentioned, a coach needs to know/see everything possible to make the best possible decisions for your program. If you’re working in an inefficient way or worse an unsafe way you may end up with a serious injury that could have been prevented. At the very least your coach won’t be able to get you as good of results as they could have.

  1. Trust the process

At the same time, however, don’t have blind faith. What I mean is your coach is doing things the way they do it for a reason. As I already mentioned they should be explaining why they do things already, but if you get a bad feeling about anything just ask them to explain. Ask them for reassurance. You’ll find out fast if they know what they’re doing or not. If they truly have your best interest in mind and are knowledgeable, you need to have faith everything is going to work out. Remember that progress is never linear and there are many stages to building a better body. But if you’re going to get there you need to be “all in” and to stick to the program to the best of your abilities. It will never be perfect, but you have to believe in what you’re doing.

It’s also best to ignore outside voices and opinions. EVERYONE will have an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If you listen to everyone you’ll end up running around in circles and going mad. As I mentioned if you have questions or hear things you’re interested, bring it up to your coach. But it’s wise to try and block out as much as you can and get all your information from your coach because there is a lot of bad information out there.

 

So there you have it. The biggest thing is you have to LET your coach help you and not let yourself stop you. Never assume you know what your coach is thinking or how he/she will respond to what you have done or say. Most of the time you’re just basing it off your own feelings which most of the time we as humans let our own thoughts run us over. Thoughts that we’d never believe about anyone else. Let go of control and let them guide you to become the best you can be.

Now I’ve talked a lot about a “good coach” in this article, and that’s important because a BAD coach will not only make your experience miserable but they can do WAY more harm than good. You wouldn’t even believe some of the horror stories I’ve been told. A bad coach could mess with your metabolism and can even go as far as helping create an eating disorder for a client. So with that in mind, I thought I’d put together a little list of signs who you’re working with is a bad coach:

  1. They yell at, demean, scold or belittle you
  2. They recommend hours of cardio daily
  3. They force you to eat extremely low calories for your body (“low” calories means something different for everyone)
  4. They take any “extreme” approach on anything
  5. They never explain why they do anything
  6. They never ask you about your training/nutrition history before creating your plan
  7. They get mad when you ask questions
  8. They don’t return emails for days
  9. They tell you sugar makes you fat
  10. They ban certain foods (assuming no allergy/intolerance)
  11. They think certain exercises like the squat should look exactly the same for everyone
  12. They force you to do fasted cardio
  13. They recommend 2x-3x bodyweight in grams for daily protein
  14. They tell you carbs at night make you fat
  15. They recommend more ab work to burn belly fat faster
  16. They tell you they can speed up your metabolism while losing weight

 

If you ARE looking for a coach to help take the guess work out and hold you accountable I am accepting clients for training and/or nutrition help. Just head here and select the option you’d like.

If you’re looking for more information you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance and a kick in the rear from time to time. WARNING – I tell you what you NEED to hear and not what you WANT to hear. So if you’re sensitive and like to place blame instead of take action, you’ll definitely want to pass. But if you’re serious about taking responsibility and changing your life, you should love it.

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I’m 7 Today! It’s My “Other Birthday”!

Seven years ago today, I made a leap of faith.  Three months’ prior, the event that sent me to the ER was an anxiety attack, but I didn’t know that on that afternoon in March 2009.  I thought it was a heart attack.  It could have been.  I wasn’t healthy.  I was being treated for high-blood pressure.  I was not taking care of myself.  I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.  The old woman I saw wasn’t the image I had of myself when I had dreams at night.  I didn’t know how to be happy.   I was stressed because I felt like I needed to do everything and handle everything alone.  Many years before that, my mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 – I was 29 at the time.  I guess I was just waiting for a similar fate and didn’t feel I could control it.  I loved my mom, but I didn’t want to die early, too.  That ER visit scared me and something changed.  I saw things differently. I decided that I was given a warning.  Maybe my mom was given one too, but didn’t recognize it?  Instead of thinking about myself from inside my fears and stress, I stepped aside and looked objectively at who I had become.   I saw a 47-year-old woman who volunteered to carry a lot of responsibilities, was going through the motions of daily life. but was also waiting for that thing to happen that was going to end me.

No.  NO!  I’m not going to go that way.  No.

I used the rest of that school year to research and plan.  On June 19, 2009, I bought a Bodybugg, signed up for the nutritional coaching that came with it, and resolved to do whatever I was told to do. Seven years later, I’m working with a coach now who works with competitors.  The details of what I did are not nearly as important as the fact that I decided to act and not look back.  I promised – no I vowed – that this would be the last time I started over.  I would not quit.  I would not stop.  I would adjust things, I would power through things, but I would not stop.

It’s been a twisty path.  I’ve had some great successes and some disappointments that almost derailed me.    I’ve learned the mental game is more important then everything else.  For me, it is the most slippery thing to keep on track.   I know that negativity takes me off my trajectory.  I cannot indulge it, but I can’t ignore it either.  I lean into it.  I dig under it to figure out what I’m afraid of.

Based on my placings at the three competitions I’ve done, I’ve accomplished very little as a bodybuilder.  Last place three times.  There are days when that weighs on me.  But I am getting better at re framing that faster.  I still have a lot left to do in this sport.  It’s a bit of a mind-trip to be 54 years old, a 20-year veteran in my career, but starting at the bottom in this new thing.  But that’s OK.  I know it doesn’t really matter.  Let’s pretend I actually won at one of those shows I’ve done.  How would my life be different?

It would not be different.  Not one bit.  Nothing would change.

I’d still be married to the same awesome guy.  The dogs would still need to be walked.  Laundry and food prep would still need to be done.  Bills would still need to be paid.  I’d still train how I’m training.  I’d still be teaching and don’t think my students would learn geometry better if I win an overall.  In fact, I am beginning to figure out that being placed last three times has compelled me to learn more about growth vs fixed mindsets, positive psychology, and overcoming fears – all of which are impacting my teaching practice profoundly.  I’ve never failed like this before.  Learning how to cope with this is something I would never, ever have had to learn had I not decided to be a competitive bodybuilder at age 50.

There is a big BIG picture here, too.  No trophy is going to be as important as fixing my health.  A placing on stage won’t be celebrated more than what I’ve  accomplished already.  No matter what I’m doing in 2016, it’s what I did before that I’m asked about most often.  I did a transformation post-menopause, which is something I was told I wouldn’t be able to do.   Others look and think “I can do that, too.”   Having me standing over here, doing this thing, flies in the face of what people believe s possible – and that’s a big deal.  (And for my friends who know that I’m not always this enlightened,  I sincerely thank you for listening and not slapping me around too much.)

This is a photo of who I used to be back in June 2009 next to who I am now.  Please, please don’t be distracted by appearances.  It’s not about how I looked, but how I felt and how disconnected I was from everything.   My current situation – seven years of self-care, six years of lifting, three competitions done, and a year out from my next competition season during the summer of 2017.  (A not-so-fancy-first-thing-in-the-morning-over-exposed-lighting progress picture for coach.  I didn’t take a special picture for this blog, which I think now was a mistake.  LOL!) Same dog in both pictures.   You can’t see Peanut in the first picture, but he’s on the end of that leash.  And Peanut finds a way to photo bomb most of my progress pictures.  :)

 

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I can’t make it easier for anyone.  There is nothing complicated about what I did, but it isn’t easy.  It will probably take longer than you think.  It will be easier some days and harder on others.  Stars and planets will NOT realign to help you out.  No special workouts.  No special foods.   Just consistent work and doing what I knew I should be doing all along.  I’m just standing here saying it can be done, so adjust if necessary, but don’t quit.

HAPPY OTHER BIRTHDAY!!!!

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Filed under Competing, Life, Motivation, Weight Loss