Category Archives: Nutrition

2017 Prep Update: Day 164 or Why I Shaved My Head


Oh, hi!  Haven’t written in a long time.  Sorry.  Part of that is because I am a busy teacher.   But when I’m quiet, it usually means I’m having a difficult time and I just don’t want to write until I’m through it and can reflect back.   This might be a long post.  I’ll break it up into sections:  Training, Diet, and Hair (or why I shaved my head)

Training

That new training split I told you about in my last post in February didn’t work well for me at all.  It was too much…everything.  I’m an introvert who teaches high school kids – and right now, I have 189 student on my roster.  Each of those students is working at their own pace.  If you’re a teacher reading this – yeah.  It’s like that.  So to say my brain is fried at the end of the day is not an exaggeration.  Lifting is how I manage stress and bodybuilding gives the lifting a goal so I will do self-care when I realistically have no time for self-care.  That phase with whole body lifts pushed my central nervous system too hard each time.  And having to deal with RPEs at 4:30 in the morning – it was not fun.  It was stressful.  When I was in the middle of it and I could not make it work, I was frustrated. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a well-documented technique.  Many lifters like it and have had success with it.  It was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t do it.  I tried to communicate what was wrong to my coach, but I didn’t know how to explain what wasn’t working.  Initially, he thought I didn’t understand the philosophy, so we lost a couple of days trading emails about that.  There were days I hated going to the gym – and that never happens.  I was getting hurt because I was distracted from paying attention to my form.  I literally cried during a couple workouts.  I felt like my coach and I were not working together well and that bothered me more than the issue with the program.   I finally just quit that split.  I didn’t quit lifting.  I just put myself back onto a familiar split.  Told my coach what I was doing.  We agreed to just go back to an older split that worked well.  I updated a couple of exercises.  And since I’ve been back on that split, I’ve hit a couple PRs on accessory movements each week.

Reflecting, I’ve learned…

  • I hate whole body lifts. I can handle upper/lower splits, but not whole body.  It’s hard to describe, but it almost feels too “confusing” to my nerves.  I felt my stress hormones go up during the lift instead of feeling the expected dopamine release.  I haven’t done research on it, but I suspect it has something to do with the physiology of being a highly sensitive introvert.  The “highly sensitive” part isn’t about emotions – it’s literally about a heightened sensitivity to external stimulation of the senses.  Windy days annoy me because I feel like I’m being assaulted by air.  As much as I love my job, I crave/need those breaks in the day when I don’t have kids around so I can recharge a bit.
  • I hate RPEs because I mentally rehearse my major lifts for hours, or even days, before I do them. When I look on the spreadsheet and see I have a 520 pound leg press coming up in Week 3, I subconsciously psyche up for it.  I’m totally fine picking a weight for an accessory movement if you tell me I need to do 3 set of 12-15 reps.  Given two conditions, I can select the third variable without stress.  But when asked to pick a weight so that I’m using 60-80% of maximum exertion, I get too caught up in the mathematics of that and I stall out.  Honestly, I’m perfectly capable of writing my own programs, but I don’t want to think about my lifts other than everything I pay attention to just to execute them properly with correct form.  I analyze every part of a rep while I’m doing it to make sure I’m activating the muscle intended.   I just want to open the spreadsheet and do what it tells me to do.  I hardly ever miss a rep.  If it says 3 set x 12 reps x 100 lbs, I will lift that damn thing 12 times just because it’s on the spreadsheet.  I will also do 3 sets of 12 because it makes recording it easier.  A set of 12, a set of 10, and a third set of 8 looks like this… 1x12x100; 1x10x100; 1x8x100.  That’s just a pain in the ass.  So I move the thing.  Every time.  And I believe my laziness in recording is one reason I build muscle.
  • I’ve also told my coach that from now on, when things aren’t working, he can expect a text or a phone call – not an email. We’ve worked so well together for over three years that this really was the first time we had something go wrong.  I didn’t really know how to handle it.  As a result, I feel like I was on a deload for a month.  I didn’t lose ground – the number of PRs I’m setting now is reassuring.

Diet

Our school district has a two week spring break.  Today is Monday of the second week.  I told Coach that right now is the best time to dig.  I have time to workout and sleep.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  Scale has been dropping a little every day.  I am now about 1-2 pounds over my scale weight before we did peak week for my last show.  I still have 3 months.  Conditioning this time will be better.   This isn’t a surprise to me.  We planned this back in 2015 after the last show.  Last week, I brought the calories down to about 10 kcal/pound of body weight for 5 days, then 2 days of slightly more to recover.  I will repeat that again this week.  Coach decides what happens after that based on where we are at.   The actual macro breakdown has my protein set at 160 grams, carbs range between 130 and 150 grams, and fats are coming in under 20 grams.  I don’t stress about hitting any number exactly except for the protein and the calorie.  I’ve got this thing dialed in most days, though.  Since Coach brought protein up, I haven’t felt super hungry.  I also figured out that if I split my morning meal in half and eat more frequently after my early morning lift, I feel better.

I’m satisfied with my progress.  There are 111 days left in this prep.  There is an end-goal for stage, but the real goal is just navigating through these next 111 days as an endurance challenge.  Can I do my life while pushing myself physically in ways I’ve never done before?  Will I be able to manage stress of life while under the stress of what I’m doing to my body composition?  And can I do this with a little grace and sense of humor?  I have stayed on course, but I haven’t been that graceful about it over the last month.  I hope to have learned a lesson I can use over the next 3 months.   This is all for fun, right?  Nothing life and death about this thing.

Hair

This next show is pivotal for me.  I’m heading right back to the same show I did in 2015 that wrecked me a little bit.  I have no idea what to expect after what happened the last time I was on that stage in front of those judges.  And then I had that frustrating lifting month in February.  In hindsight, I see it as a blessing now.  I had every reason to quit – lifting sucked, I turned 55, I’m busy, it’s hard to do, and there isn’t a tangible reason to compete… but I didn’t quit.  I couldn’t quit.   I don’t quit.  But there wasn’t much positive pulling me towards something instead of a general “I don’t quit” stubborness.  Then one day I woke up and a switch had flipped.  I needed to commit and commence with the “ass-kickin’-takin’-names” part of this prep.  That morning, I registered for the show.

I’ve felt different since then.  It’s about redemption now.  Maybe I will always be put in the last place.  So what?  I’m still showing up, aren’t I?  This is amateur women’s bodybuilding.  There is no real-world difference between “overall” and “last place”.   There aren’t cash prizes.  There will be no contracts or sponsorships.  Those of us who do this are motivated by something else.  If the width of my pelvis screws up my symmetry, I can’t give a fuck about that because I can’t change it.  But I can prep hard to lose enough fat so that the glutes attached to that wide pelvis will be visible.  If it’s possible, I can do that.   I have built my delts and quads a little.  That will help with the symmetry a bit.  And I can get creative with posing to emphasize some things and distract away from others.

But how can I be braver?  How can I make sure I hear that little voice in my head that reminds me to be a badass every day when the doubts can be so loud????

So that happened.  This is my signal to myself to remember who I am and why I’m doing this.  I get a reminder every time I see a reflection.  I get a reminder every time that side of my head gets cold, too.  Hahahaha!  To be honest, it was an impulsive thought at first, but I thought about it for a week.  I pulled my hair back and tried to imagine it.  I was beyond excited to get this done.  After I walked around with it for a few days, I figured out why I needed to do it. I’ve had it about a week and I love it.  Not a single regret yet.

Sorry about the length.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!  The support I get keeps me going.  Thank you!!

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log, Nutrition, Weight Loss

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

Guest Blogger, Colin DeWaay: How to Set Your Macros

Colin BannerIn my first blog for Tammy I discussed why the majority of people who lose weight struggle to keep it off long-term and gave some tips on how to keep the weight coming off by avoiding plateaus. In the second blog we talked about flexible dieting and the importance of avoiding super restrictive diets. If you missed those articles I do recommend going back and reading them first, in order, as what as of the things I’m going to tell you today won’t make sense without doing so.

So now that you know about flexible dieting and the importance of hitting your macronutrients (regardless of what actual foods get you there) the next part is figuring out what YOUR macros should be, because it’s completely difference for everyone. Even two people with almost the exact same stats (height, weight, age, activity level, etc.) could and probably do have different metabolic  rates. In fact how many times you’ve dieted over the course of your life can negatively impact your metabolism. So things like how many times you’ve crash dieted, how recently you’ve been on a low calorie diet, etc. can severely impact your metabolic rate.

This is why it’s so important for you to track your intake and adjust. Just because some calculator out there tells you how many calories you should be eating based on your stats, doesn’t mean those numbers will be right for you. But what it does do is give you a fair starting point. It will at least hopefully get you in the ballpark, but it’s up to you to track and see if it actually works for you or not. This is what any good coach for you will do. Calculate with their best estimate of what will work for you based on the info you give them. Then track and adjust based on how things are going. Take away calories if you aren’t losing weight, and yes, even add in calories if you are losing too fast.

So how do you find out how much you should be eating? It starts by finding a TDEE (Totally Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator online. This will tell you roughly how many calories your body burns in a day, so you have an idea of how many you should be eating. Once you calculate your TDEE I recommend eating about 300 calories less than that number at first. Then you track and see how it works. But it’s important to not get tied up in how things go in just a week. You must give it time to see and you also need to track more than just weight. You also have to remember that as you lose weight and time goes on your metabolic rate WILL slow down (there is no avoiding this) so you have to pay attention and make adjustments. No set of numbers will work forever. Just keep in mind scale weight is just one tool and one measurement. Take progress pics, measurements, judge by how your clothes are fitting, how you feel, etc. and BE PATIENT.

The best calculator I know of is at IIFYM.com. You can use their IIFYM calculator to not only get your TDEE, but they will also help you come up with your macros as well. You can find that calculator here. I think it’s important to point out protein is the most important macronutrient to hit consistently. It’s the main driver for not only building muscle but maintaining it in a deficit not to mention it’s very thermogenic so your body expends more energy. Typically I recommend people to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight , but if you have a lot of weight to lose that’s probably not very realistic. In that instance I recommend about 1 gram per pound of roughly what your goal weight is. That said, if you aren’t used to eating a lot of protein you may find that difficult to reach at first. If that’s the case start lower and slowly add protein each week until you can get where you want to be.

Another form of flexible dieting that seems to work well for others is one I learned from my old coach Chad Dolan with Denovo Nutrition and that is instead of tracking all three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) you only track protein and fiber (I recommend always tracking fiber anyway) and you don’t worry where the rest of your calories come from regardless if it’s carbs, fat, or even more protein. This actually allows for an even more flexible approach to dieting and the difference is likely negligible. At least for those just looking to get in shape and aren’t trying to compete at an elite level of a sport. Which style you like is up to you, and you may want to try both for a while and see which one you’d like better.

I think it’s also important to point out flexible dieting DOES NOT mean stressing out about nailing your macros perfectly each and every day. It doesn’t mean being paralyzed by the fear of every going over your numbers. Nor does it mean you should always try to be under them. The point is to get CLOSE and be FLEXIBLE. At the end of the day it’s total calories and adherence to a plan that’s more important than anything. But at least with flexible dieting you can choose to eat some of the foods you love in moderation and keep yourself from feeling so restricted. Will you nail everything right away? Of course not. You will make mistakes. You will have frustrations. But like with anything else, the more you do it the better you get at it and the more comfortable you will get with it.

So now you know how to come up with your macros and you know that while certain numbers will work for a while they will not and cannot stay the same. Your metabolic rate changes and your numbers will have to change with it. But what about exercise you ask? I’ve been going on and on about nutrition for 3 weeks now. No worries, I will delve into that next time! Trust me, there are just as many myths regarding exercise for weight loss as there are with regards to nutrition.

In the meantime if you are ARE looking for a coach to help put everything together and take the guess work out of everything I am accepting new clients. Just head here and sign up and we can get started. Otherwise if you are looking for more information from me 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 will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll love it.

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Filed under Nutrition

Health and Fitness Success in the Long Term – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

Colin and I have been friends for a few years.  We met through our blogs.  Because of his passion for helping others achieve their health and fitness goals, he and his wife transformed their professional lives so that Colin could follow his dream to be a trainer and coach.  He’s researched and written extensively for a long time, as a contributing author for other blogs, and on his own site, Colin DeWaay Training.  Even though I am a NASM trainer and Fitness Nutrition Coach, my teacher duties and my own training keep me too busy to work with clients or to even research and write the kind of informative posts I’d like to have here on this blog.  Colin and I share similar views on everything related to fitness and nutrition, so I asked him if he would be willing write for my blog monthly and he generously agreed.  I’m excited because you will get solid information and I can keep my focus on the motivation side of a long-term transformation.   Let me know in the comments if you found it helpful.  Thanks Colin!

When Tammy asked me to step in and write a guest blog for her I was thinking hard about what I’d want to write about. Given a lot of people look up to Tammy because of her amazing accomplishments over the last several years, I felt a good place to start would be how to bring about health and fitness success in the long-term.

Chances are if you are reading this you’ve lost weight at some point in your life. Perhaps you’ve done it several times. You see the world doesn’t really have a weight loss problem. It has a losing weight and keeping it off problem. The statistics are quite staggering. According to a paper in the American Journal of Physiology (1) 80% of people that lose weight are unable to keep it off for one year and the statistics just get worse with each passing year to the point where within a 3-5 years only a handful of people have kept it off.

Now before you read that and decide it’s not worth the effort, I want to explain why I personally believe most people fail to keep the weight off. You know the old cliché diets don’t work? That it’s a lifestyle change? Yeah, that’s true. But the problem is nobody talks about how to make it a lifestyle you can keep up with and that’s enjoyable.  When most people diet they focus on eliminating things. No more sugar, bread, dairy, alcohol, etc. The focus becomes on all the things they can’t eat, creating a pretty miserable experience. Certainly you want to focus on eating foods packed with nutrition, but I also believe it’s important to include the foods you love as well.

“If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work.”

The problem with the typical diet is they aren’t sustainable. They are too restrictive and too hard for the average person to keep doing. If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work. This is why I’m never impressed with short-term “transformation” photos. Sure that’s great you lost 30 lbs in 2 months. I want to see another picture in a year. Most of the time it will look just like the “before” photo.

Why? Because when you crash diet you signal your body to think there is a lack of calories. So your metabolic rates slows, and when it does come across calories there is a greater likelihood of fat storage. Your body doesn’t care about being lean, it wants to keep you from starving to death. That’s it’s job! So how does the typical diet go?

Usually it starts by eliminating a bunch of foods as I mentioned before. Generally there will be a pretty drastic cut in calories because of this. By eliminating a bunch of foods you start losing weight fast. Not because those foods were necessarily “bad” but because by eliminating them you eliminate a lot of calories. At first you start losing weight really fast. Multiple pounds per week start falling off and you couldn’t be happier. It’s “working!” But eventually you stop losing weight. It’s getting much harder than it was at first. You stick with it for a while but as the weeks go by and you still can’t lose more weight so eventually you give up. It’s too hard and there’s “no point” so you go back to your old eating habits and the weight comes back on. FAST.

Sound familiar? Why does this happen? Well first, it’s probably not your fault. You’ve been taught by infomercials and the media that fast weight loss is GOOD. That you can drink shakes and take pills and lose the weight for good. You’ve been told cardio and eating only rabbit food and cardboard is how you lose weight, you don’t know any better! When I’m done with this series, you won’t have that excuse anymore…

Here’s what really happens when you take this approach: When you lose weight fast it’s because you are burning significantly more calories than you are consuming. Sounds good right? After all you MUST burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. There is no way around this. But the problem comes from not eating enough. At first you lose a lot of calories because your metabolism is firing away from all the excess calories it’s used to getting. But then when you cut your calories it slows down.

You have to understand when you lose weight your metabolism will slow, there is no way around this. If someone tells you they can raise your metabolism while you lose weight run far, far away from them. When you cut your calories too fast your metabolism will slow down even faster. But the problem is if you’re already eating extremely low calories, what will you do when weight loss stops? Keep cutting calories until you’re no longer eating at all? No, you can’t possibly keep that up so instead you quit. And you go back to your old eating habits, only you do so with a much slower metabolism than you had when you were eating like that before. Sound familiar?

So here’s the real “secret” to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.  It is imperative that you do this for lasting results. This way when you do reach plateaus you have room to make adjustments. You can continue to cut your calories and get the ball rolling again. This is why slow weight loss is the way to go. It keeps your metabolism working for you. It makes it more sustainable so you can keep going in the right direction. Certainly if you have an extreme amount of weight to lose a faster pace in the beginning is okay and normal, but eventually you want to keep things around a pound or two per week max. And honestly the slower you can take it the better off you’ll be long-term. Plus as an added bonus, you get to eat more! Who doesn’t want that???

“So here’s the real ‘secret’ to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.”

Yes you will get frustrated sometimes because it’s taking longer than you’d like. And yes, you’ll be jealous of the people you see online and in person who are losing weight extremely fast. But if you just keep going and doing it the right way. Chances are a year down the road, two years and beyond those people will be right back where they started. And they will be asking you what your secret is. It’s something I see ALL the time.

Okay now that you know you want to keep calories high and take weight loss slow. Now you probably want to learn more about still eating the foods you love while you lose weight… That’s exactly what I will talk about next time Tammy has me back.

If you are looking for more information from me 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 will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you will love it.

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Filed under Guest Blog, Nutrition, Weight Loss

3 Weeks Out – Time is Flying By Fast Now

This past week was an emotional one.

  • Two graduations to attend – my new high school and my old one.  I don’t have enough words to describe how proud I am of my students.  Every single one had to work hard to achieve what they celebrated on that day.
  • Had to go back to school to clean up the room, print my grades, and turn in my keys for the summer break.  It’s a short break in our district – we go back at the beginning of August.  I’ll go back at the end of July.  When I locked that classroom door, I was a bit overcome with gratitude to have finally landed in a spot that works with my life and where I feel appreciated.
  • I dropped our parakeet’s cage in the patio by accident.  It wasn’t hurt – but it flew away.  I didn’t think I was bonded to that bird, but I miss it.  I feel remorse that my clumsiness probably killed the little guy.  I try to push back thoughts of how scared it must have been with the thought that, since he was kind of an old parakeet and never been out of a cage, that this was his great escape.  He is off having an adventure.
  • Life happened – no details – but for about half a day, it looked like I was going to have to pull out of the show because we would need to the money I have saved for show expenses to handle the situation.  That made me a bit sad for about half a day.  It worked out differently than I thought it would, so things are still a “go”.  Competing is NOT a life-priority.  I won’t let it be a consideration when we are making decisions.
  • Since I’m not working now, all my daily routines are gone.  It’s relaxing to be able to sleep without an alarm clock.  Still working on getting my days to run a bit smoother.  My training and prep activities do take up a chunk of time each day, but they aren’t the most important things I need to do each day.  Hubby and home are my top priorities.  I spent a lot of free time over the last year dealing with school transfers.  I’m still juggling things a bit to make sure my priorities are reflected with how I spend my time each day.

Look what came today!  I love it!!  Fits great.  I ordered the suit last Sunday night and it was delivered on Saturday.  This is my fourth suit from Saleyla , they are affordable, they have all fit and are delivered in a week.

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New Posing Suit (Photobombed by Tippy)

This week, I chose the song I will use for my routine.   I had to download and learn how to use software to edit it myself.  It was a little more involved than setting a start/stop time.  I needed to figure out how to put three different chunks together and make it sound like it wasn’t three different chunks stuck together.  It can only be a minute long.

This is the song I’m using…

I think I have a rough draft of my routine put together.  Sent a video to my coach for his feedback.  The next three weeks will include a LOT of practice time for the routine and for mandatory poses.

Diet break ended and I was back on deficit days this past Thursday.  Body has dropped every day since.  I was at a prep low of 132.6 lbs this morning.  This is what diet breaks have done for me during this prep.  Haven’t really hit any unplanned plateau’s yet.  Those breaks are planned maintenance periods.  Not exactly refeeds – I have to eat a little under my burn to maintain my weight.  Months ago, these “diet deloads” were nice breaks.  Now, they are stressful.  Obviously, they are a psychologically stressful this close to a show, but the last two have also been physically stressful.  It’s a gear change that I actually feel.  But they are a break for my metabolism, though, which is the point.  These breaks are pushing my fat loss to a place I’ve never been.

Lifting has been going well.  Still no major loss of strength.  There were a couple times during the last week of school when I pulled back a bit, but that was to stay safe when I knew I was sleep-deprived and stressed.  This week, I’ve been able to do what was planned.  I am supposed to test my max lifts next week, but I asked coach if I could skip that.  I don’t need another thing to think about right now.  And I know myself – I get a bit competitive with myself when testing.  I just don’t see the point right now.  Coach said I could just add 5% to my lifts and skip it this time.  I’ll test again after the competition.

New progress pics were taken this morning.  I’m still nervous about being as lean as I need to be, but I am happy that I have already reached my goal of having better conditioning than I did in 2013.  I only post my progress pictures here on this blog.

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Have There Been Improvements During My “Improvement” Season?

I still haven’t picked a specific show, but the plan is to compete somewhere in mid July 2015.  There have been so many changes in my life this year (Hubby’s accident, new job) that I cannot assume everything will go as planned for the rest of 2014.  I’m taking each day as it comes, but I need a goal.  So  “July 2015” is the target and I will begin the first cutting phase in August or September. (Coach calls it “the cut before the cut”.   I’ll tell you about it when I know more.)  I have about a month or two left before I have to switch gears.

Am I making any progress???

Body Composition

I’m feel like a marshmallow covered rock.  Very solid on the inside, more so than I’ve ever felt.  But I’m a tad fluffy on the outside.  I haven’t been “bulking”.  I watch my burn and eat as much as I’m using, plus an extra 100 calories  most days.  My current weight has been fluctuating between 151 and 155 pounds for the last two months.  My body weight at the end of last November was 153.  The last time I was on stage was a year ago, June.  It was around 135 then, but it wasn’t what I would call a ‘healthy’ 135.  I did a traditional water depletion for that show, so once I was rehydrated, my weight jumped up to 140.  I don’t ever want to do a water depletion again, so 140 should be considered my last ‘stage weight’, in my opinion, when considering how much over ‘stage weight’ I am right now.  (I wasn’t lean enough at that show.  To avoid water depletion, I need to be leaner. )

I kept my weight under 145 from June until the Strongman competition last September so I could compete in the smaller weight class.  After that competition, I let it creep up to the low 150’s.  Last winter, I did a very gradual cut and dropped as low as 149, but gained a couple pounds back when the cut was over at the end of February.   I’ve maintained in the low 150’s since then.  I feel good in the low 150’s.  I had a DEXA scan done last October and my bodyfat percentage was 26%.  I bought one of those handheld impedence monitors a few days later so I could check it at home.  It’s reading was 27%.  Close enough for me to keep an eye on it.  That number hasn’t changed, so it’s hard to tell from the scale and that device if I’ve improved my body composition much.  I feel like there is more muscle.  But I know from years of DEXA scans that when I’m anabolic, I gain everything – muscle, fat, and bone density.  My bodyfat will always be calculated higher than it appears because I’m older and have more visceral fat around my organs.  Mirror is more important than the number, but I care about the percentage.  If I’m gaining fat, I better be gaining muscle, too.  I am pleased that I’ve been able to keep things fairly consistent.  But is that an “improvement”?

So I looked at other data.

Food

I use a Bodybugg and the website has the capability to generate reports.  This is interesting data.  I compared the month of December 2013 to June 2014.   The reports I ran calculate averages for 28 days.  Remember, my body weight has stayed within a couple pounds of 153 for the last seven months…

Average Daily Calorie Burn Average Daily Calorie Intake Average Daily Carb Intake
Dec 2013 2147 1864 156 g
June 2014 2254 2391 249 g

 

I’m encouraged by these numbers.  I haven’t been cycling carbs according to a plan, but rather I cycle them up and down depending on my calorie burn for the day.  My hope is that I’m setting myself up for an effective contest prep.

Lifting

The programming I’ve been given has been solid, but I haven’t done the big three lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift) consistently.  One of those lifts has always been there, but not all three at the same time.  I’ve been doing a LOT of rowing to bring up my mid back.  I’ve been doing occlusion training to bring up my quads and glutes without having to do heavy squats because I suck at squats.  I use my back too much on deadlifts, so I’ve been doing partial deadlifts since May.  To be honest, I’m not really in love with the current program, but  I’m going to stick it out until August.  I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to address weaknesses, which is why I’m not loving it.  It’s frustrating and I feel like I suck at it.  I record my form all the time and look for problems.  I find plenty.  Good stuff to do.  Just not fun.

Again I ask…how do I know if I’m making progress?

I use an app on my iPad called Gym Buddy to record my workouts.  Not a lot of bells and whistles in this app, but there is some good data.  Check out these screen shots about how my lifts have changed…

 

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Since I’m not doing the big three lifts consistently, I picked few things that I’ve been doing and looked at that data…

Some Upper Body Lift Stats

  • Hammer Smith Row: up 115%
  • Seal Row: up 19.1%
  • One Arm Dumbell Row: up 58.5%
  • Bench Press: up 22%
  • Kettlebell Overhead Press: up 5.7%
  • DB Curls: up 25%
  • Tricep Rope Pushdowns: down 19.4%

Some Lower Body Lift Stats 

  • DB Split Squats: up 29.9%
  • Partial Deadlifts: down 4.1%
  • Hex Bar Deadlift: up 45.8%
  • Calf Raise: up 101.1%

These stats are a tiny bit misleading.  The program uses all the data, no matter how long I’ve been doing the exercise.   Some of these are new to my program.  You can see how many times I’ve done that exercise on the screenshots.  (I may not have included all the screenshots – just wanted to give you an idea of where the data comes from.)  I don’t think my triceps have become weaker – it’s just that I do that exercise at the end of a workout that starts with bench presses.  They are toasted!  I am having a hard time with partial deadlifts.  I don’t like them.  Decided to bring the weight down and work on technique.

Seal Rows

 

Mental Game

Overall, I should be pleased with how things are going with the lifts, but I’m not.  Nothing exciting, just putting in work.  I might just be a frustrated powerlifter-wanna-be.  I want to deadlift 250 pounds!  I know it’s there, but when I tried a couple weeks ago, the bar didn’t budge.  Squats were removed from this phase of my program, so I have no idea what I can do with that lift.  Bench is coming up very slowly.  I’m at the point where I’m not adding weight, but trying to add reps.  Heck, I feel like a wanna-be all the time.  Too old.  Too weak for my size.  Maybe this is just “off season blues” of an intermediate lifter?

So I’m struggling.  Like I said at the beginning, I’m just focused on what I have to do each day.  Small, daily goals to keep progressing.  I feel like I’m just crawling.   After my husband’s accident in February, a lot of things changed.  I’m a little overwhelmed dealing with insurance companies, medical bills, processing the crazy crap at work, the decision to transfer schools, and adjusting to the reality of all these changes.  The thought of competing seems frivolous today.  There is a show next weekend a couple hours from home.  It is one that I might do next year.  I’m going to make the drive to watch and hope it snaps me out of this funk.

And while I’m going through what is the most challenging period of my training life do date, I feel pressure to continue to be ‘inspirational’.  I’m sure anyone who has been following can tell I’ve been off my game.  I haven’t been able to write as much as I used to.  I haven’t been posting as many little pep-talks as I used to.  I’m stalled out.  It hasn’t been easy to be transparent with my program .  I post something meaningful to me on the page, or a current picture, and the ‘likes’ drop.  I am not looking for approval and I’m not interested in being a fitness personality.  I’m awkward and fluffy and OK with that.  I’m an introvert and my inclination is to NOT post.  I’d like to hide, do my thing, and post pictures from my next show.  But that’s not an honest way to document the process, which I want people to see.  I do it because I’m a teacher.  Health is more important than bodybuilding.  And by ‘health’ I also mean self-acceptance.  I like my fluffy self – she’s big and strong and healthy.  I’m not concerned at all about not being stage lean.  It’s not time for that.

I’ve got my daily routines and I love to lift.  No matter what else is going on, I’m grateful to be able to do this.  I know many of my peers cannot.

This is the grind.  I’ve been here before.  It will pay off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Eat Clean” vs “IIFYM”: Best of Both?

Disclaimer: this is not an educational article.  If you want to know more about Clean Eating or IIFYM, you will find oodles of information online.  Probably too much information, actually.  I’m writing this piece today to share how I’ve changed over time, why I did, and how I’ve blended the two nutrition philosophies in my current food choices.

I try to avoid it, but every so often, something blows up on Facebook about how to eat.  I thought the women on some fitness pages were bad, but the guys can get very aggressive.  I saw some bullying behaviors this weekend that would be actionable if it were done by kids at school.

I’ve said it before…

IT’S. JUST. FOOD.

We aren’t talking about politics or religion here, but…maybe we are?  In the fitness world, it sure seems like it sometimes.

I’m not an expert and I’m not going to cite research.  I’m going to share my nutritional evolution because I thought it was interesting when I reflected on how it has changed and why.  To be honest, what works for one person, may not work for the next.  We are genetically and environmentally different.  Heck – I’m different.  What works for me now wouldn’t have worked for me when I started.  My body is different now.  My daily activity level is different.  My body composition, chemistry, and my goals are what determine how I eat.  What used to determine how I eat was convenience and emotions.

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When I started in 2009, I knew as much as any regular person not involved in fitness.  “Eat healthier” meant “eat a vegetable every once in a while”.  I started by getting help.  I consulted with a nutrition coach once a month on the phone and through email between those consults.  She taught me how to log food, how to use the log to monitor how much I was eating, and she helped me with food substitutions that were less calorie dense so I could eat more while still creating a calorie deficit each day.  That’s how I gradually evolved into a “clean eater”.  Whole foods have fewer calories than processed ones, generally.  I also felt better eating whole foods.  Felt better not eating sugar, too.  Go back in this blog and I’m sure you will find a reference to how eating “food grown by God” seemed like the best way to feed a body.   I naturally moved away from sugar and chemicals in my food because it felt good.  Felt good psychologically, too, since I was at the beginning of my transformation.  I needed to do something completely different than what I was doing before.  

When I started bodybuilding, eating became more technical.  It wasn’t just about calories, it was about macros – proteins, carbs, and fats.  The bodybuilding culture has a short list of clean foods that some call “bro-foods”.  The bro-foods include eggs, chicken, tilapia, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, almonds, and olive oil.  I’m sure there a few things I missed.  I was going by my own memory.  But the gist is that there isn’t a lot of variety.  As in all things “food”, there is a social component to this approach.  There is a sense of belonging to a particular group if you eat like this.  Tuna!  I forgot tuna.  I remember when I was in my 20’s and first learned about bodybuilding from a guy who put a can of tuna on a baked potato.  That’s it.  I was fascinated.

In the last couple of years, the acronym, IIFYM, If It Fits Your Macros started flying around.  The basic idea is that a daily goal for each macro is set and what is eaten is not as important as hitting those targets.  This approach is infamous for the amount of processed foods, like Pop Tarts, consumed.  That’s the hype, not the reality for most who use IIFYM.   This is something I see discussed by guys more than gals.  Younger guys, in particular.   The online conversations I’ve read are dominated by guys.   They sometimes argue a bit about the merits of eating “bro-foods” vs IIFYM.

From the time I started bodybuilding and eating macros, I’ve been eating mostly bro-foods.  It was just easier – boring, but that didn’t bother me.  However, since the last time I was on stage in June 2013, I’ve been more flexible with my food choices.  Still following macro targets, but getting there with some foods that I used to think were “off limits”.  Some days are mostly whole foods – other days, not so much.  I’ve managed to keep my body weight and body composition fairly stable for the last year at a weight that is not contest lean. Instead, I’m about 15 lbs over stage weight at a body fat percentage that is healthy for a 52 year old me, 27%. (I may not get as lean as younger women because of visceral fat on my organs. I think i was around 15-16% when I’ve competed. That’s something I believe can be improved, btw). I am still over a year away from my next competition, so it’s all about lifting and recovery right now. .

Since I’ve played around with both approaches, here is what I’ve learned that works best for me.  Let’s keep score:

  • I feel better when I eat real food and not a lot of sugar.  However, being flexible has helped me put balance back into my life.  I had lasagna with the hubby last night.  Yum.   Clean = 1, IIFYM = 1
  • Because I’m in maintenance mode right now and my calorie burn each day seems to be creeping up, and the directive from coach was to keep fats and proteins stable, but cycle carbs to match the burn – well, I need carbs.  Lately, it seems I need more than you might expect and it’s easier to get them from non-clean foods like ice cream sandwiches.  (I get Skinny Cows because their macros are lower.  Some days, I only have room for one.  Other days,  two or three.)   Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1

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  • My bullet shake gives me more energy than just about anything I’ve ever consumed besides sweet potatoes. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

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  • Quest bars – not so much.  They’re good, but I don’t need so much fiber at one time. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0
  • I don’t have a major problem with bread anymore.  I think not eating it often caused what I thought was a problem.  I keep the low-carb torillas in stock for the same reason I get Skinny Cow ice cream.  If I don’t have a lot of wiggle room, like on a rest day, I will use a tortilla instead of bread. Clean = 0, IIFYM = o

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  • Once a week, I don’t log food.  It’s usually a Saturday because that’s the day when the prepped food runs out and the new food isn’t cooked.  I end up eating fairly normally, but that’s also a day I’m likely to go out with hubby for a meal.  This is not a rule – it’s just something I’m doing right now to give myself a break.  I’m not in contest prep mode, so it’s OK.  A lot of people don’t log at all when they aren’t in prep mode.  I don’t mind logging.  I like data.  I’m a math teacher, you know. Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1 because I know what I eat on those days
  • I’m sitting in my kitchen right now.  As I look around I see apples, limes, bananas, squash, a beet, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, dried cranberries, bread, and bagels.  Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

TOTAL SCORES:

Clean = 4

IIFYM = 3

So I guess I’m basically a “clean” eater most of the time, but I’ve worked in some other things because I like them.  That’s how I eat now.  I could not have been as flexible when I started.  I didn’t have a structure in place, like the macro targets, to slam the breaks on binging.  Each day I have one of those moments when I’m hungry and just want to grab whatever, but don’t because 1) I am saving room in the macros for the rest of the day, or 2) I’m too lazy to log it.

I guess you could say that I’m using the structure IIFYM, but usually choosing clean foods to hit my macro goals.  I honestly don’t care to put a label on how I eat – it’s just food.  I eat to recover, to get stronger, to grow muscle, to be social, and some things just because they are yummy. When it’s time to cut, I’ll probably get better results this time around – or at least that is the plan.

 

 

 

 

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