Tag Archives: health transformation

2017 Prep Update: Day 254 out of 275

About three weeks left until my competition.  So far, everything is still happening in a predictable fashion.  My nerves are coming up just as I knew they would.  My scale weight continues to drop.  Currently three pounds UNDER my previous stage weight.  I’m about 1.5 pounds away from my coach’s goal for my new stage weight.  I think I can beat that, too, because there are some things I’d like to see that I don’t see yet.  I think the glutes will lean out more because I tend to loose weight once food comes up a bit during the week.  Coach remembers that I lost weight during peak week last time, too.  Since we are this close, I’d like to find out where I need to be for the lower abs to be visible.  Not there yet.  It’s hard for me to talk about this stuff because I know the general population has a misconception about what “health” looks like.  Visible abs are not a measure of “health”.  Please read the disclaimer below.  This is part of my sport.  I really don’t give a shit if my abs are visible as a human walking around.  Doesn’t make me a better wife or teacher.   Doesn’t make me smarter or kinder.  It’s important only in context – there is a mandatory pose that I will be judged on called “abdominal-thigh”.  I would like to confidently have that one in my repertoire at some point.

DISCLAIMER: I share my story because I was able to transform my health after menopause using nutrition and exercise.  And the science is the same for general fitness as it is for bodybuilding – most of the time.  But remember – I’m now in prep for a competition.  My division, bodybuilding, requires a body fat percentage that is lower than what is considered “healthy” for the general population.  I’m post-menopausal, so I don’t have any issues with that to consider.  My thyroid function has been checked and everything is working optimally because that is a priority.  And for almost four years,  I’ve been working with a scary-smart and patient coach who I trust to prioritize my health over a placement.

Took progress pictures last week and realized that the suit I have that I wanted to wear is now, officially, too big.  The bottoms needed to be pulled up so far that it reminded me of that stereotypical “grandpa pants” look.  I’ve ordered my suits from the same place all this time and I know they can turn around an order pretty quickly, even a custom suit.  Sent them measurements and had the suit in a week.  I asked my coach to pick the color.  I really don’t care about my suit this time.  I just want it to fit and I want to feel comfortable.These are my pictures from this morning compared with my pictures from last August shortly after a mini-cut in my off-season.  Prep didn’t officially start until October.



I started a scheduled deload this week in the gym.  I haven’t noticed much of a loss of strength, but I’m a little paranoid about injuries right now.  Pulling back a little is just fine.  I can push a little on cardio and fat loss for about another week, after that, two weeks out, cardio is going to be cut back a bit.  I’ve been going to the gym twice a day for about a month now.  Things need to be lifted.  Posing needs to be practiced.  If I didn’t get enough activity during the day, I will do another cardio.  They also have a water-massage table that I need to use every couple of days.

Nothing has changed with food. I’m still running 4 days a bit lower in carbs (around 130 g)  and then 3 days a little higher (around 200 g) to recover.  Protein was dropped once early in the prep and I hated it.   Since then, we brought protein up to 160 grams a day and never changed it.  I do well without a lot of fat – less than 25 grams usually.  My food preferences are lean and veggies all the time anyway.  Prep isn’t really much of a change for me – just a couple of food swaps here and there.  Regular peanut butter got swapped for PB2.  Used to use a whole egg with whites in the mornings, now I use just the whites.  Traded my favorite Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches for sugar-free popsicles.  (I’m not a ‘clean eater’.  I eat what I like.  I just actually like real food with a few exceptions.  I don’t feel like I’m deprived.)   Got a little more food-focused in the last couple of weeks, but I know that’s because I’m pushing myself to be leaner than I’ve ever been in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’m working on some fat now that I’ve had since high school!  That makes my fat older than my coach!!  LOL!!!  And getting this lean is a new, sometimes scary, experience. I see things I’ve never seen before and don’t always recognize. “What is THAT?” “Is that a TUMOR?” No.  It was a vein. Cut me some slack on that one – at 55, we start looking for things that 20-somethings would never imagine, right?

Most days, I feel really good – or at least “normal”.  That surprises me a bit.  Grateful for it.  One of my goals for this prep was to do it as gracefully as possible.  I think that the mindset of “this is voluntary – I’m doing it for fun” helps.  I also know that I’m working with a coach who puts my health before results.  Results are long-term side effects of science-based protocols.  I’m patient.  I trust the process most days.  On the bad days, I just have faith in the consistency of it.

Honestly, I’m not a diplomatic, sugar-coating, sort of person anyway.  I’m pretty blunt and straight-forward when I’m not stressed.  Physically, I’m stressed right now.  Keeping the mental game positive (if you’ve been following along you know why that’s a challenge for me going back to this show) is also a little stressful some days.  My tongue is sharper now.  And I’m faster to use it.  All I can do is promise that I’m doing my best to be a nice human – which is a challenge for me even when I can have comfort food.  😉

Started thinking about doing a second show this fall.  It’s local, so there won’t be transportation and hotel costs.  Let’s see how this first one goes.  I’ve been working hard for a couple of years now.  If I think there is a little more that can be accomplished with this version of my physique, I’d like to keep pushing.  It hasn’t felt like too much of a grind – teaching is harder, actually.   Isn’t that an interesting observation?

In other news, summer school started last week.  I have 26 kids working in the mornings until noon.  I set up everything so they could work at their own pace and get help from me as needed.  They jumped in and are doing great!  There were some stressful issues over the first couple of days since I didn’t have access to the district’s online attendance and gradebook program, but once that was fixed, I got things caught up.  And then the AC broke.  But again, our building’s maintenance staff got on it, had the district out to fix it by the end of the week.  I wanted to teach summer school to help keep my mind off the show.  Nerves are going to be an issue this time around.  I also knew I wanted to run bleachers in the morning – but even that’s not working out.  The track is being replaced and the field is locked up.  Plan B – walk around the school a few times in the morning before going in.  It’s a big building, so that’s not trivial.  Definitely safer.  Need to just trust that things are working out exactly how they should, right?

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep

What To Do When Dieting No Longer Works – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay


“How did I get here again?” That’s the question you find yourself asking as you step back on the scale for the first time in months. You had done so well, lost a bunch of weight, feeling good about yourself, but you somehow put it all back on… AGAIN. This isn’t the first time it’s happened to you, hell it’s probably not the 4th time it’s happened. But this time you’ve had enough. This will be the last time. You go back to your old routine. You start cleaning up your diet, exercising daily, doing all the right things. “Why isn’t the weight coming off?” It seems like no matter what you do now, dieting no longer works. So, you get a little more extreme, still nothing. Eventually you get frustrated and give up, go back to your old habits, until once again you can’t take it and start over. You’ve tried every quick fix, fad diet, and gimmick you could find but nothing ever sticks. Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone.

You probably think the reason it’s not working is because you’ve gotten older. Sure, age is somewhat of a factor, especially for women when menopause starts (I’ve written about this before here) but that’s still not the main reason. It’s actually your long history of dieting that’s making it so tough. In fact, the more times you’ve dieted in your life, the harder it likely is to lose again. (1) It’s not uncommon for people to have dieted on and off most of their life. I have clients who admit they’ve spent the last 25-30 years of their life yoyo dieting. With how adaptive the human body is, losing weight in that scenario will be next to impossible unless you take the time to improve your metabolism, which I’ll cover here soon, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

First, let’s talk about just how well the body adapts to low calories. Remember that your body doesn’t care about achieving low levels of body fat, it cares about survival and when calories are low, those survival instincts are going to take over. Your body becomes very efficient and holding onto what you give it. Your hormones change, thyroid and leptin levels drop, cortisol and ghrelin rise. Not only that but even when weight increases fast, your hormones still don’t return to normal. On top of that you burn less calories from exercise, the thermic effect of food drops and your metabolic rate slows. (2, 3)

In fact, lucky for me the day I sat down to write this article Dr. Layne Norton posted a new study showing how metabolic adaptation happens during low calorie periods. In this study they showed just 3 weeks of a 50% calorie reduction reduced total daily energy expenditure much more than predicted based on the amount of bodyweight actually lost. During this small time frame, total daily expenditure dropped 42%, resting metabolic rate dropped by 40% and non-resting metabolic rate dropped by 48%! (4) Keep in mind this is just a 3 week period, imagine if you’ve done something similar for months or even years on and off? Clearly the body is good at adapting to low calories and this is just one more sign why so few people are able to lose weight and keep it off long-term.

So what does all this mean for you? Well for one it reminds us just how important it is to NOT diet with extreme methods and keep calories as high as possible while still losing weight. It also brings to mind the importance of sustainability of your diet, which is why I believe flexible dieting is much more effective than rigid plans. But most importantly if you’re someone with a long history of dieting the last thing you should think about doing is trying to diet down once again. Yes, I’m saying even if you’re overweight and unhealthy you SHOULD NOT try to lose weight. Wait, what? What kind of a coach/trainer would tell someone out of shape NOT to diet? Well, one who actually cares about your long-term success… If calories get low, if dieting is no longer working, dieting more will only make things worse. So what SHOULD you do then? Well I’ve talked about it before, but this is where reverse dieting comes into play.

I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because as I mentioned I’ve covered it all here before, but I do want to touch on it. If you have a long history of dieting, if you’re eating low calories and the body isn’t responding, you’re going to need to take the time to improve your metabolism if you’re ever going to see long-term success. Think about it this way. If you’re eating 1200 calories and not losing, what are you going to do? Eat 1000? 800? 600? At some point it’s just not realistic. I’ll be honest too, reverse dieting isn’t a fast process. It’s going to take a lot of patience, you may gain some weight in the short-term, but the trade-off for an improved metabolism and a LIFETIME of success is well worth the trade-off of short-term frustration. It can’t be any less frustrating then dieting hard and not seeing any results, can it?

Hey I get it, this isn’t what you want to hear. And believe it or not I completely empathize with your frustration. You didn’t know this was happening, you didn’t know you were doing more harm than good with all this dieting. You had good intentions! Unfortunately, that doesn’t change reality and it’s important to operate from a position of acceptance, rather than blame or anger. Now you know better. Now you know what you’re up against. You don’t HAVE to reverse diet and take the time to do things the right way, but if you don’t you’re also probably better off not even thinking about getting in shape. I’m not here to tell you what your priorities in life should be, and there’s nothing wrong if health and fitness isn’t your priority. That is completely up to you. But if it IS a priority, this is your new reality. What are you going to do about it? Starvation diets and extreme methods have never worked, restrictive dieting only leads you to binge. It’s time to give up the quick fixes and start doing things in a sustainable manner. Remember, if what you’re doing to lose the weight isn’t something you can do when the weight is gone, you’re doomed to fail. Break the cycle!

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If you’re looking for more information from Colin download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails. 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.

Colin DeWaay holds a personal training certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.

http://colindewaaytraining.com/

https://www.youtube.com/c/colindewaay

https://www.facebook.com/ColinDeWaayTraining/

 

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Filed under My Lifting Log

2017 Prep Update: Day 240 of 275

School is out for summer!  Yay!!  I’m teaching a morning session of summer school starting on June 19, so I only get a week off, but that’s OK.  The summer school session will help me stay busy and that might help a little with the nerves I’m going to feel as the show gets closer.  The negative voice in my head keeps reminding me of the last time I was on stage, when basically, my biggest fear that I would not be taken seriously as a bodybuilder was confirmed.  So I’m getting back up there to be judged again.

Have I done enough?  I don’t know.  Improvements have been made.  I have worked hard and continue to work hard.  It’s impossible to know what will happen in a bodybuilding competition because some factors, like genetics and age, are beyond my control.  But no one will out work me.  I’m consistent and methodical.  I can control that.

July 2015, 128.6 lbs

A couple weeks ago, I lightened the loads on my leg press.  I’m smaller now and the loads I wanted to use started to strain some old quad pulls.  Better to lighten things up a bit and keep working than to risk an injury.   Coach took direct shoulder work out of my program for 4 weeks to allow for a full recovery in those joints.  I got my lateral raises back last week – so happy!  I felt like a kid who got her favorite toy back after having it taken away.  My back movements are still progressing, but progress is slowing down.  Tricep work is stalled out now and I have to keep using the same loads.  After this many years of lifting, I’m at the point when progress can take months or longer.  It did take me about 3 years to add 5 pounds to my bench press.  That’s another lift where I needed to drop the loads.  It seems I lose my strength there right away when I’m in prep.

But lifting is still going well and lifting is the thing.  Competing sets a goal for the lifting – which is something I need.  I don’t enjoy competing that much that I look forward to it.  It’s just a finish line for a certain phase of training.  I love the look of bodybuilders on stage – the tan, the poses, the lighting – but I’m an introvert, so spending the day hanging out with all those people…well, it’s a bit stressful.  The first two times I competed, the stage part was fun.  I’m getting back up there with the intention of fighting off a bunch of negativity and finding that fun part again.

DISCLAIMER: In order to be competitive in the division called “women’s bodybuilding” ,  fat loss has to be pushed to the extreme leanness that the athlete is capable of achieving in that contest prep. When I talk about what I’m doing, please keep that in mind.(Bikini and figure divisions have a different criteria for leanness.)    Even though I’m losing fat by creating a caloric deficit, which is how anyone who wants to lose body fat has to do it, I’m doing it longer and trying to lose more weight than is appropriate for general fitness.  Most people should not compete.  Anyone who struggles with food-related issues should not compete.    I’m not jeopardizing my health and would stop if I was because competing isn’t what is important.  I don’t use fat-burners,  I don’t cut water,  I eat well, and it’s all monitored by an extremely smart and protective coach.  And we will carefully reverse the diet afterwards to keep my metabolism healthy – like we did in 2015.

Ok, that said – my scale weight is currently fluctuating between 1 and 2 pounds below my previous stage weight.  Which means, assuming I’ve gain a little muscle in the last two years, I’m leaner, lighter, but might have more muscle density.  I think the fat I’m working on right now has been there since the 70’s.  LOL!!  Even so, the meno-pot on my lower abs is hanging in there.  I’m seriously on a mission to lose it just to prove it can be done, damn it.  The loose skin in various places is a bit discouraging, but there isn’t much I can do about it.  Just looks like my skin-suit is getting a little too big, like my clothes.  The plan coming out of the 2015 show was to limit the amount of weight I gained in off-season so that the skin wouldn’t be stretched more.  I did that, but I do think it will take YEARS to tighten up, not months.  I’m not interested in using fancy lotions, wraps, or anything like that.  Solid nutrition and time will either take care of it, or it won’t.  I’m 55 and I’m grateful to be 55, so if I look like a 55 year old bodybuilder, so be it.  I’m just getting started, so I expect to look like a 70 year old bodybuilder when I’m 70, too.

Hair game took a dramatic turn in recent months.  First, I asked my hair coach to shave off half of it.  Then I asked her to start adjusting the color so that my natural gray would blend better.  The current color looks gray in some light, but usually looks more ash-blonde.  I like it.  Still want more silver highlights in there, though.  Especially for stage.  And speaking of stage – decided to use my velvet black suit for pre-judging and night show.  No sparkles.  Might wear simple stud earrings at the night show, but that’s going to be the extent of the sparkle.  I’m going to do this one “old school”.  I’ve been watching video from the 1980’s, which is when I first fell in love with this sport.  Those are my peers – even though they are retired now and I’m just starting.  Doesn’t matter.  I don’t care.  Everyone else can sparkle.  I’m here to do this thing the way I want to do it.

My “Yay I’m FREEEEE for summer vaca!!” post on Facebook from last Friday…

Taken with a flash.

 

As I said before, I expect my nerves and battle with my internal self-doubts to be more of a challenge this time around.  Which is why I’m so grateful that my friend Michelle will be flying in from across the country to be there for this show.  In the last few months, I developed a little game I play with myself called “I don’t have to actually go to the show if I decide not to”.  Knowing she is coming out stopped that destructive little train of thought at least 3 times this last week.  Just in case anyone else is in the Sacramento area, here is a link to the show information.  If you’re up for it, I’d love to have some screaming support at pre-judging.  I think I can battle back the self-doubt by telling myself that because I gather courage from others to do this scary thing, others will be able to gather courage to do something that scares them, too.  If I can meet you in person, wow.  That would change the dynamic of this day in a big way.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log

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: 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

The “Shit Sandwich” & Other Lessons From Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, some big ideas from unrelated parts in my brain crashed together in a perfect storm of temporary enlightenment.  An email conversation over a few days with my coach about goal setting happened while I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.  This isn’t a book review – I’m just sharing a couple of things I’ve discovered listening to this book that helped me.

For a couple months now, I’ve explored the shame I felt when I competed last July.  If I don’t deal with it, I won’t be able to compete again because I know there will be an anxiety attack of epic proportions.  For those of you who are familiar with her work, one of Brené Brown’s books has already been listened to – twice.  (I’m sure I’ll listen to it a couple more times). There have been a couple of Wayne Dyer’s books, too, and a couple from authors not so well-known.  Each of these books have given me something I can use to evolve my mental game, just like lifting transformed my physique.

She Called it “The Shit Sandwich”

Ms. Gilbert referred to the sacrifices required to make time to be creative while still being a responsible person as eating “the shit sandwich” for your particular endeavor.  It means that that there will be parts of the process that aren’t fun or convenient, but need to happen.  She gave examples of now famous authors who made the time to write, working other jobs, before they were able to make a living as a writer.  She mentioned Toni Morrison and JK Rowling specifically.   She said we need to be willing to do the inconvenient stuff.

Someday, I’d like to be an author, but right now, that’s not where my creativity is focused.  I don’t expect people to understand it, but bodybuilding is where I feel creative.  I work on it daily.  Lifting, food, rest are my tools.   It’s my sculpture.  I’m working on this one project.   I add to it, sometimes work on details, and I walk around wearing it.  I’m happy to do the hard stuff for my craft – “the shit sandwich” of early morning workouts, getting by on less sleep, saving money to pay for it, and the periods of strict nutrition.  But there are other parts of bodybuilding that feel like it’s not worth it.  I do think about these things.  I work on balance.  And I repeatedly ask myself “why do I need to do this?”  It’s a simple answer.  It brings me joy.

Rejection?

When I step on stage, my “art” is being judged.  Last July, my sculpture was the best it’s been, but I lost sight of that fact.  The table of folks below the stage judged my work as inferior.  (Have I told you what happened?  I don’t remember.  When I was moved after the first symmetry round, I wasn’t just moved to what would be a last place position in my own class.  Women’s open and novice classes were brought out together.  I was in the open.  When I was moved, I was moved away from the open class to the other side of the novice class.   I was far stage right, not being compared to anyone during the mandatory poses.  I did not see a single judge look at me during front-facing poses.  I knew I just earned my third last place finish in three shows.  I fought hard to keep my inner demons quiet the whole time I was on stage.  My photographer husband was next to the stage, so I posed for the pictures.  Those are the only pictures where I’m smiling.)  The reflective work I’ve been doing – listening to books, absorbing ideas, applying some, rejecting others – has helped begin to build the mental foundation that I thought was strong enough to withstand what happened on stage that day.  I wasn’t ready.  I need to be sturdier to do what I’m attempting to do – a competitive female bodybuilder in open classes even though I’m in my 50’s – because I don’t want to be caught off guard on stage like that again.  I can’t control where they move me, but I can control how I react to being moved.  I can control who’s opinion matters more to me on that day.  Mine.  Period.

As I mentioned, there were several emails with Coach last week about goal-setting.  He knows what I’m working on.  We’ve also agreed that I need to complete this work before I can compete again.  He gently steered me towards setting goals about personal progression.  Thought about it.   Turns out, that doesn’t work for me.  I see progression as a logical outcome of smart programming and consistency.  So if I’m going to make sacrifices, expect my husband to sacrifice, spend money on this, I need another big scary goal.  I made a list of the big scary goals I’ve set and achieved, even though they seemed hard or impossible when set.  After a few days of sitting with it, mulling it over, and acknowledging that my experience last summer had landed me in a depressing place called “reality”, Coach helped me find the words to set the next big  scary goal…

Last. Woman. Standing.

(Which means I want to win an overall, earn a pro-card, and compete at a national show.  I’ve always wanted this, but three last place finishes has made it seem too naive to hang on to.  It’s still naive and unrealistic.  So what?  I’ve been disappointed already and know what that feels like.  I didn’t set a time limit.  Just owning the dream.)

This one needs a new name.  It will now be called the Big-Scary-Hairy-Improbable-But-I’m-Going-For-It-Anyway Goal.  I honestly believe I will continue to improve and will present a better sculpture each time I compete no matter what.  I have a good work-ethic and a supportive and smart coach.  But it’s no longer about how hard I work anymore, is it?  This goal will fuel my work regardless.  This is “Fire-in-the-belly” sort of stuff.

I listened to Ms. Gilbert addressed rejection and it occured to me that I can learn a lot from writers about judging and rejection.  This passage resonated with me…

“No doesn’t always mean no.  Never surrender.  Miraculous turns of fate can happen to those who persist in showing up.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

So that’s the plan.  I’ll keep showing up.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you will love it.

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Filed under Guest Blog, Nutrition, Weight Loss