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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

2017 Prep Update: Day 100

Day 100 was last Sunday.


An interesting, unsettling, and maybe a bit impulsive decision was made on Day 100…

Facebook deactivation.

I know – so what?  Who cares? (Is it ego to wonder if anyone noticed?  Probably.  Is it ego to write about it?  Definitely.)  It’s not a statement about social media – I’m obviously still involved since I’m writing this blog post.   I had to find a work-around to keep the Lifting My Spirits page up and plan to keep posting there. Thought about taking a hiatus from that page, too, but it has a purpose and the people who comment there are amazing. They inspire me.

I think I’ve been getting ready for this for some time.  Had a privacy violation a couple years ago that bled into real life.  I stopped accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know and have been posting less.  I’ve been more careful.  I’ve “unliked” or “unfollowed” pages that posted things that yanked my chain.  Deactivating for a time could be the next step in that process.

I like how it has forced some changes in my head the last couple of days.  It’s quiet in here.   I love my job, love the kids, but I am an introvert and working with full classes of teenagers all day drains me a bit.  I’m working about 55 hours a week, training, and I’m working on earning some CEU credits I need to renew my teaching license next year.   My plate is always too full.  (Figuratively, not literally.)  I started paying attention to things I did away from work that recharged my batteries and what cause my brain to spin.  I deactivated Instagram last year.  It took a few days to get out of that habit, but it felt good to share less.  I’ve been on Facebook a lot longer and this feels like I just fell off the planet.  It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but a good thing for me to have less external input in my day.

It’s hard, though.  I don’t want to lose touch with people, so I need to make a new habit to stay in contact.  Learned that Messenger still works and that’s a relief.  Fits my personality better to have private conversations, anyway.  This may be a temporary decision – when my prep is done and I have a little less on my figurative plate and more on my real one, I’ll probably activate it.  It does feel weird.  How did we do this before??  We didn’t even have email growing up.  Were we just…quiet?  The fact that it feels like I’m in withdrawal just confirms that it’s a good thing for me to do.

Whatever…what about bodybuilding??

Training went well this last week.  Got a PR on leg extension this morning.  Coming off the deload week, my loads were scheduled to increase.  Hamstring feels better, but the ankle below it is still tight.  Seems like the hamstring healing up might be pulling on everything below it.  I plan to do more stretching in that area.

Less walking needs to happen since my feet are feeling beat up.  We have a 20-year old recumbent bike at home.  Most years, it was out in the patio.  It’s weathered and a bit beat up.  This adorable puppy has used a pedal as a chew toy when she was working through separation anxiety.  It still pedals, so it’s all good.  Jump on there for a bit on days when my normal activity was low.  We’ve had many of those days here the last few weeks thanks to some winter weather.

img_9146      img_9145
Oh, and weight is still dropping, but not fast.  Much more scale bouncing these days, which is expected.  So far, over the last 100 days I’ve lost about 12 pounds, give or take a daily bounce.  Stage weight goal is in another 13 pounds.  If I make it, this stage will be 4 lbs lighter than last one.  It probably won’t be easy to get there, but it’s part of the game.  The reverse diet out of this one will be just as hard.

So that’s my update for Day 100.

Recap…

  • Training is good.
  • I’m now a hermit.

 

 

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Filed under Contest Prep, Life

2017 Prep Update: Day 94

Crazy week!  Monday, Jan 9 was supposed to be our first day of second semester after a three-week break.  Didn’t happen.  Weather here made it necessary to cancel school on Monday and Thursday.  We had delayed starts the other days.  Roads were slippery.  No sunshine.  No dog walks.  We all had cabin fever.  I was able to get a ton of  work done to set up for the new semester.  That will pay off for me later since I’m prepping for the show in July and taking an online class to earn CEUs to renew my teaching licence next year.  We live close to the gym I use, so I was able to get in and had extra time…but sadly, it was a deload week.

Every four weeks, whether I feel like I need it or not, Coach has a deload week programmed into the cycle.  I appreciate it because I know that is why I have stayed relatively injury-free since I started working with him in 2013.  Usually, to deload, I’ve reduced loads.  This time, I kept the loads where they were the week before, but reduced the number of sets and reps.  I also skipped all hamstring work for a week to give my left one a chance to heal up.

Usually, I’m happy to have that deload week.  This time, it was hard.  The week was stressful because of the weather, scary driving, and the schedule disruptions.  I didn’t want to increase cardio for stress-management because I needed to rest that hamstring.  Also, I’m three months into a contest prep diet.  Even though my calories were increased a bit, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to divert those resources from healing that hamstring.  By the time Day 92 rolled around,  I was in a funk.

Funk = this is bullshit.  Why do I bother?  I’m not built right.  I’m too old…yada, yada, yada.

Sunday, Day 93 = first leg day in a week.  And no hamstring pain!!!  I was able to do what I was supposed to do on leg press.  I was cautious and brought the weight and reps down for leg curls.  But no pain during the movements at all.  I can still feel it when I stretch that hamstring, but it’s much less intense.  And I’ve noticed the ankle on that leg has become slightly stiff – I suspect that’s the issue flowing down the kinetic-chain.  (That knee was a bit wonky last week, too, but that went away.)  I’m hitting those hamstrings again tomorrow morning.  I know I’m still healing, so I plan to continue to be cautious.

And magically, the funk lifted.

Food wise, I have been struggling with logging.  Monday-Friday, I am on it.  Weekends?  Not so much.  I don’t think it matters too much since I eat the same way – I just don’t want to log.   I’m a flexible dieter, so I don’t feel too deprived from food choices (except I miss pizza – I don’t eat celery, but this is just funny).

I’ve been logging food since 2009, so I think I’m just taking psychological breaks while I can.  Prep progress on the scale is still happening.  Things have settled into the “normal” bouncing that I’m used to.  No change for a few days, up a pound, down a couple, etc.   I look at it as a mathematical pattern.  It’s not linear, but it’s still predictable, so I’m good.  At some point, it won’t be predictable.  I’ll stall for a long time…and then it will get going again but I’ll have to fight for it.  I think that will happen sometime around March.  At least I hope I can make it that long before things get frustrating.

I’m not super concerned, but I don’t think I’ve done a good job with making each day of the 275 day project as awesome as it could be.   And I don’t think it matters all that much.  I’ll probably talk about that in each blog because I need to stay centered on that idea… It.  Doesn’t.  Matter.  I do this bodybuilding thing for much better reasons than what is ever going to happen at a show.

Oh, and just between you and me, I’ve decided to toss in a few extra sets of things not in my program on days where they won’t interfere with what IS in my program.  Nothing crazy.  Today, I did some light lateral raises and these face pulls.  Just getting some blood flow in there.   Recorded the face pulls just to see what’s going on with the rear delts.  Haven’t worked them directly in a long time.   Nothing upper body is scheduled for a couple of days, so it’s all good.  😉

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How to Make This One Your LAST New Year’s Resolution – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

I think Colin’s tips below are targeted to that person who is highly motivated to make this the last time they need to start over.  Share this one to save it.  It could be a great reference for when the motivation wanes and grind begins. ~ Tammy

Well it’s that time of year again. Gyms are being flooded with people vowing to make a change. I actually LOVE this time of year, despite it making my own workouts a bit hectic. Seeing so many people trying to change for the better is awesome. There is only one problem though…. VERY few will succeed. So what I want to do today is go over why I think the majority of people fail and talk about ways you can make sure this year is the last year you EVER make a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape.

At the very top of the list of importance is sustainability. Cliché or not fitness is in fact a lifestyle and if you’re not in it for the long haul no matter what you do you’ll eventually fail. What that means is you have to find something you enjoy and you can see yourself doing long-term. If you hate every second of what you’re doing, how long do you really expect to keep it up? Even if you manage to lose the weight, how will you keep it off when you stop?

It also means you need to focus your attention on the process and not any quick fixes. I promise you no pill, “detox” (don’t even get me started,) green sludge or plastic wraps are going to do the trick. It comes down to diet, exercise, and consistency. But once again, this is where most people go about things completely wrong. They think to see results they have to eat nothing but cardboard and rabbit food and they must suffer endlessly. In fact most people seem to seek out the most difficult “hardcore” plans they can find hoping this might be the answer. They’re doing it wrong….

So with that said, let’s go over 5 tips to help you finally get where you’ve always wanted to be…. And STAY there.

Tip #1

Don’t try to “kickstart” your weight loss

Of course you want great results and you want them now, who can blame you? We ALL want fast results. So naturally you should do something dramatic to get things going right? Couldn’t be more wrong. In fact that’s the exact opposite of what you should do. You see when you lose weight your metabolism slows, there’s no way around this. So sure if you dramatically cut your calories and/or do a lot of cardio you’ll drop weight fast. Everyone loves that! Well, at least until you get stuck. Which if you take this approach I promise you will.

Think of it this way. Your body cares about one thing above anything else. Survival. It could care less if you have a six pack or “toned” arms. It’s job is to keep you alive. So when you cut calories low it’s going to do everything it can to hang onto what you give it. Basically your body gets really efficient at utilizing the food you eat, which in theory sounds good, but it’s not. You begin to burn less calories from the exercise you perform, the thermic effect of food decreases, you burn less calories at rest and what’s arguably worse is you get a shift in hormones that not only makes you feel hungrier but also prevents you from feeling full. (1) Yep, your body gets more efficient at making sure you don’t starve yourself to death by making it easier to store fat and overeat. Recipe for disaster if you ask me. Make sure you eat as many calories as possible while still losing so you can keep making adjustments. Plus who doesn’t want more food???

 Tip #2

Don’t deprive yourself

Remember that thing I said about sustainability? You’re not going your whole life without eating the foods you love. And the big problem is when you tell yourself foods are off limits a few problems arise. 1) When you tell yourself you can’t have something what’s the thing you automatically want? (Forbidden fruit.) 2) You’re relying on willpower which is not infinite. Eventually you WILL run out of willpower and you’ll be caught in a bad situation which is what leads to binge eating. 3) You’re going to be miserable, and if you’re miserable do you really think it’s going to last? There is no happy ending to an unhappy journey. If what you’re doing now to lose the weight isn’t something you can keep doing after the weight is gone you’re doomed to fail. 4) You form a bad relationship with food. You find yourself feeling guilty just cause you ate some cheesecake. You find yourself avoiding social situations or if not you’re stressed out about all the “temptations.” Guilt should never be associated with food… Ever.

I’m not saying your diet should be nothing but pizza and ice cream, but they certainly shouldn’t be completely off limits either. You have to learn moderation and this will never happen with a restrictive diet. Despite what most “gurus” will tell you there are no magic foods and there are no foods that inherently make you fat either. Yes certain foods have a more nutrient dense profile and help you feel fuller, but it’s all about context of an overall diet. Is eating broccoli better for you than a scoop of ice cream? Sure. But if that scoop of ice cream helps you stay on track, avoid binges, enjoy your diet and stick to your diet than I’d actually argue the scoop of ice cream is BETTER. Everything in context. Besides, believe it or not there is actually data to support whether a diet had mostly simple carbs or complex carbs it made no difference in body composition OR health markers when calories are equated. (2,3,4)

Tip #3

Focus your exercise around strength training

I’m kind of known for bagging on cardio and I’m often asked why I think cardio is “bad.” I don’t think cardio is bad by any means, it just needs to be utilized wisely and it shouldn’t be your primary source of exercise if you want to do things optimally, especially if your goal is body composition. New research even supports the use of strength training for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease even independent of aerobic exercise. (5)

While cardio does tend to burn more calories during the actual exercise itself it’s nothing compared to the fat burning machine your body becomes with strength training. When you’re done with cardio and your heartrate returns back to normal you’re done burning calories. With strength training you get what’s called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which means your body continues to burn additional calories even while at rest as it recovers and repairs from the stress you gave it. This effect can happen for a few hours or even up to almost two days depending on several factors. (6) Not only do you burn more calories recovering, but the more muscle you have on your frame the more calories your body burns naturally. (7) And no ladies, it won’t make you bulky or look like a man… Pinky swear.

So how should cardio be treated? Like calories only in reverse. You want to do as little cardio as possible while still losing fat so you have more options when things stall out. If you’re now eating high calories and doing low cardio you have plenty of options moving forward to bust through those pesky plateaus. Guess what happens if you’re already eating hardly anything and doing cardio every day?

resolution

Tip #4

What you did before DIDN’T work

I can’t lie, this one drives me nuts. So many people will go back to old plans they did before because they lost a bunch of weight. But if you did this and gained all the weight back, did it really work? Of course not! It only works if you can sustain it. “Well that’s just because I stopped doing it, this time I won’t quit.” Sure you won’t, best of luck… Sorry but chances are the reason you stopped was because you were doing many if not all the things I’m telling you not to. You quit because you couldn’t rely on willpower anymore. You couldn’t eat the same 7 foods the rest of your life. You couldn’t run on a treadmill for hours on end anymore. You hated what you were doing and you stopped. So why would it be different this time? Yeah you want it bad now, but motivation doesn’t last forever.

Tip #5

No more “all or nothing”

This one absolutely kills progress. People think they need to be perfect and if they can’t be there’s no point in even trying. The truth is chasing perfection is a losing proposition. In the battle of all or nothing, nothing will win 100 times out of 100. There will be times in your life you need to be more strict and there will be times to be more flexible. You must learn to be okay with not being perfect. You’re better off being 80% “on” all the time then being 100% “on” half the time. There will be times you have to back off more and there will be times you kill it and that’s totally fine.

So bottom line, what should you do? Take things slow and don’t rush the process! Eat as many calories as possible while losing weight and focus your training on resistance training. Losing between .5%-1.5% of your body weight on average weekly is a pretty good pace for most people but understand that scale weight is far from the only story and the leaner you are the less it means. Focus more on how you look, how your clothes fit, how strong you’re getting and possibly most importantly how you FEEL. These things mean way more than any number on the scale.

Do this and you can continue to make adjustments when you hit plateaus. Remember that your metabolic rate is a moving target and adapts to what you do, so if you make huge drops right away you’ll lose plenty of weight fast but it will stall quick and then what will you do? You can only drop calories so low. Take it slow and make adjustments when necessary and you keep the good times rollin’! Remember, you didn’t put the weight on in 2 months, so don’t expect it to come off in 2 months either.

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If you’re 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’ll 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’re sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.

Lastly if you’re ready to take that next step and want to make sure you do things right this time just head here and I’d be honored to help you reach your goals. But only if you’re serious! The program only works if you do.

 

 

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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

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

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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