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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

Oh Hey – It’s My Birthday Again!

Eight minutes from the exact time I started writing this post, I will precisely be 55 years old.  I always miss my mom on my birthday.

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Me and Mom

Took some progress pictures today.  I’m not competing until July, and based on how this prep has been going, it highly likely that my conditioning will be better than it was the last time I competed.  I’m humbled and grateful that I’m able to do this considering I didn’t become any kind of athlete until later in life.   I’ve become less comfortable sharing my progress pictures for many reasons.  But this blog started when I started this new life, so I also think it’s important to document where I’m at now.

Today’s pictures compared to October when I started this prep…

Oct 2016 - Started Prep

Oct 2016 – Started Prep

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10-8-16-back

 

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Can’t lie.  I’m a bit freaked out about this birthday.  I remember being younger thinking that being 55 would be close to retirement – which I might be, but haven’t really decided on that yet. (2/16/17 edit – at the end of this day, I’m leaning towards “sooner rather than later” on that retirement thing.  Love, love, love the kids. It will never be anything about them that pushes me out.) Digging what I’m doing as a teacher right now and I passionately believe it’s a better way for humans to learn mathematics.  I’d like to hang in until I work out the bugs and evolve it.

55 is also a big one because my mother died when she was 56.  Intellectually, I think I’ve done enough to alter my own path, health-wise, to live longer than my mom did, but she died of a brain aneurysm.  We don’t know if that was a hereditary condition or a consequence of her smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.

Did I say I am grateful?  I woke up today extremely grateful to be here.

My husband created most of the gifts he gave me.  Aren’t they amazing?  His time and the little things he included in these paintings (he used his thumb print to color the heart with the tree) made these the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received.

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Hubby had to work today, but I took the day off.  I needed to renew my driver’s license since it expired today.  Took my little girl pup with me.  We stopped at a local duck pond for a short walk on the way home.  Poor thing has been cooped up in the house.  Weather here hasn’t been conducive for walks.  I also have a nagging issue with my left ankle and foot.  Nothing serious, but long dog walks aggravate it.

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Started a new training phase this week.  It’s a very different split than what I’ve ever done before.  Coach has me doing full body four days a week for a month with a bit lighter loads.  It’s probably going to be good.  The first week will be bumpy because I need to adjust my habits.  My little gym doesn’t have everything I need, so I have to travel to another one for that one thing I do need on that one day – the logistics need to be worked out.   He also incorporated the use of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exersion) to determine the loads I use.  It’s an uncomfortable adjustment for me to make.  I mentally rehearse my lifts the night before.   When I don’t have an actual load given on the spreadsheet, I ruminate on it a bit – and that’s not relaxing at all.  It’s probably just difficult for me right now because I’m working so much and I’ve been dieting for 123 days.  I’m not mentally flexible right now.

It was a memorably wonderful birthday.  And I will have a carb hangover tomorrow.   It’s all good – I’m leg pressing in the morning.  I’ll turn it all into muscle.  😉

(I didn’t eat all of this candy today. Milk Duds are gone.  And there was a heart-shaped pizza. And a big slice of cheesecake.  This won’t be my last refeed, but it could be my last REFEED until July.)

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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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2017 Prep Update: My 275 Day Project

My prep will be 275 days long, but I changed my life 2750 days ago.  Started – didn’t stop.  I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.  Things that worked for a while stopped working. Other things that were hard at first, like logging food, have become second nature.  Sure, some things have been disappointing and frustrating.  But this sport challenges me in unexpected ways.  It has made me a better wife.  It has made me a better teacher.  Training calms me and helps me handle life.  I’m careful and train safely.  I’m proud of what I’ve done and grateful that I’ve been able to do it.

I need to apologize for my long absence from this blog.  It’s true that I’ve been busy – I’ve retooled my geometry class to be one where all students move through curriculum at their own pace.  I have about 170 students who needed to master 38 skills before Christmas break.  During this break, I’m organizing the activities for them to do during second semester.  Yeah, I’m busy.

That’s not the only reason I haven’t been writing.  I spent most of 2016 learning how to disengage my ego from what I’m doing as a bodybuilder.  The problem isn’t that I think I’m so awesome.  It’s the opposite of that.  I don’t think I’ve accomplished much at all and have been battling the urge to give in and “be realistic” about competing.  I haven’t had a healthy perspective on this thing.  I’ve worked hard, so part of me feels like I “deserve” to have some tangible success, but based on some things I cannot control, it’s possible that I will always place poorly.  Hard work doesn’t matter.  That’s a given.  Everyone up there worked hard.  Do I keep going anyway?  Others have quit.  If this isn’t going to be about being competitive, what is it about for me??  The initial excitement is gone, I got knocked on my ass, and I’ve spent a long time finding a way to get back up.

It’s been a hard year and a half of self-reflection about what I can control, what I can’t control, and what is it about this sport that keeps me engaged.  The July 2015 show really rocked my confidence.  I am afraid to compete again.  I’m not getting younger – 55 next time I’m up there.  Genetics aren’t going to change.  How do I justify continuing when I’ve had so little success?  I have a full plate.  I have people who depend on me.  I have responsibilities.  Why am I spending time and money on this bodybuilding thing at my age?

Why? Because I love training.  And it keeps me from sliding back into my old, unhealthy habits.  Based on what the doctors told me back in 2009, it’s critical that I do self-maintenance if I want to have a normal life-expectancy.  I’m goal-driven and the scarier the goal, the better.  In my mind, it feels more like an individual quest for excellence.  If my measure of success becomes improving form, increasing strength, being consistent, grinding on days I need to grind, learning when to push and when to hold back, controlling all the variables that are mine to manage – can I do all of that?  And can I make myself stand there for another stinky spray tan, get back up under the lights, and be vulnerable again?  I think I can. I think I can keep doing this for a long time, too.  I also think there is something more I’m supposed to learn.  There is something more going on here – I just don’t know what it is yet.  So I’m “all-in” with this thing, I guess.

Ok, so how do I prepare for the next show when I have so much anxiety wrapped around the idea of it?  I’ve been working with the same online coach for three years, so he’s handling the nuts-and-bolts of the prep.  It’s on me to handle the mental game.  If you’ve been following the few posts I’ve made, you know I’ve been on it.  Lots of audio books.  Lots.  After some frustrating experiences, I’ve chosen to limit my exposure to almost everything online that relates to bodybuilding.  That alone has cut down on a lot of stress because my value system is a little different.  I never feel so old as I do when I look at what people post.  If I avoid it, it is easier to focus on what’s important to me and what I need to do.

Most people who compete talk about prep in terms of a countdown.  “I’m 20 weeks out”, etc.  I’ve done it that way before because I was excited about the destination.  Thing is, I’m not now.  Counting down to something that scares me increases my anxiety about it.   Plus, it’s too ‘future-focused’ for me.  I prefer to focus on what I need to do TODAY.  So let’s flip that around.  The project is now the prep itself.  It is not a “means to an end”.  It is the goal.  Can I do this?

The day I started prep on October 14th was Day #1 and there will be 275 days in this project.  The overall goal is to push fat-loss farther than before.  This is NOT something a non-competitor should attempt.  If you’re not going to compete as a bodybuilder – literally in a division called “bodybuilding” – don’t do what I’m going to do.   Can I, a formerly obese 55-year-old woman, get “shredded”?  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t done it.   And can I do it safely so that I won’t have issues later?  I have a smart, protective coach and we have worked our way through a plan over the last three years to be in a position to make this attempt now.  But I can already tell we are way ahead of our 2015 prep.  Months ahead.  I don’t think July 2017 will be my ‘final form’, either.

The result of the 275 day project will be an accumulation of what I do each day.   That makes each day a separate challenge and the goal is to do that day as well as I can.  Did I make every rep of each set count?  Did I do what I needed to do with food?  Did I get enough sleep?  Did I have enough energy to take care of life?  AND… am I not getting my undies bunched up about how I do that day?  Yes, it’s true.  “Not caring that much” is really a daily goal.  I refuse to up-end my life just to get a little leaner.  Sure, there are some sacrifices to be made, but gosh, this is just for fun, right?  It’s just my version of climbing Mt. Everest.

I hope to find time to write every so often and update this blog on where I’m at inside this prep, my 275 Day Project.

CURRENT STATUS:

Today is Day 76.  This phase of the cut has been aggressive, but calories were increased a couple weeks ago and will be increased again soon.  So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  I am also about 10 pounds over my previous stage weight, but the plan is to come in lighter.  There is more muscle, so coming in even a couple pounds lighter will look a lot leaner.  My personal goals are more about things that have been issues for me on stage.   There are certain poses that have always been hard for me because I wasn’t lean enough to perform them properly.  I don’t want to deal with that issue this time around.

I will do today as well as I can.  And I will do that 199 more times.  And my undies will remain as unbunched as possible.

Here is part of my video report to my coach last week showing my workouts for days 65 through 71.

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Filed under Competing, Contest Prep

Transforming Into an Athlete in the Second Part of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Filed under Competing, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

Menopause, Weight Loss, and Training

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Cortisol, Guest Blog, Weight Loss