Archive | April, 2010

Mr. Guilt

23 Apr

Before I started my 12-week diet and my lifestyle change, I was constantly ridden with a nagging sense of guilt about my eating habits. I knew I was eating too much, had way too many white carbs and far too many sugars in my diet.

Mr. Guilt was nagging me day in, day out.

This isn’t surprising since I was also listening to Mr. Easy at the time. While Mr. Easy is always lurking around somewhere, Mr. Guilt only shows up when you are taking Mr. Easy’s advice.

Mr. Easy actually may be the nicer of the two — at least he wants you to feel good, even if it is only for a few minutes. Mr. Easy says things like, “Sleep in and skip cardio today, you’ll make it up tomorrow” and “Have ice cream every night! You’ve only got one life, right?”.

Mr. Easy will lead you down the wrong path, but Mr. Guilt is just downright mean. He makes you remember every little detail of things you regret doing. Mr. Guilt says, “Remember that ice cream you had last night? Yeah, now it’s stuck to your hips forever. You shouldn’t have eaten it. You really should have just ignored Mr. Easy.” And he’ll go on and on until you feel absolutely miserable.

Unfortunately, you can’t get mad at Mr. Guilt and mentally “punch” him in the face like you can with Mr. Easy. Mr. Guilt will just laugh at you and continue to nag you all day long. The only way to send Mr. Guilt packing is to ignore Mr. Easy.

Recently, I realized I don’t wake up every day hearing Mr. Guilt anymore. I don’t miss him at all! And when I do start to hear him, I know I’ve been listening to Mr. Easy a little too much and that’s my signal to get back on track.

Steph

*Watch me do it*

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I’m on the HIIT bandwagon

21 Apr

The other day, I picked up a copy of  Muscle & Fitness HERS magazine that I had saved from last year. There was an article that I hadn’t remembered reading before about HIIT (a.k.a. “energy burst”) cardio training. It was about a woman who is 6’1″ that has always been athletic, but packed on 100 lbs after college.  After cleaning up her eating habits, she only lost a few pounds in a 4- month period. She was discouraged because she spent hours and hours doing cardio.

I don’t know what made her do it, but she switched to HIIT, reducing her cardio to just an hour for the entire week. Immediately the weight started flying off. Now, she looks like she stepped out of Super Model Figure School. The transformation is amazing.

From volleyball players to doctors, figure models and bloggers — I’ve read them all say that HIIT works. And not only does it work, they say it helps to prolong fat burning, increase HGH levels and build muscle.

Since January, I have incorporated HIIT along with long-term endurance cardio sessions. But I’ve been afraid of doing too little cardio, so I do about 5-7 hours of cardio weekly. I can’t help thinking, though, that what I am doing is inefficient. I also think I may be missing out on a great muscle-building opportunity.

HIIT almost sounds too good to be true — but then again, I keep hearing it, over and over again, so it doesn’t seem like a fad. I think, like me, most people are  afraid to let go of their long cardio sessions in fear of gaining weight. But if HIIT can keep my metabolism high and build lean muscle while burning fat, I have to try it, at least long enough to see if it works.

I’ve decided what is best for me is to do 20 minutes of HIIT cardio 5 days a week. I started this plan on Monday, doing it the way the article in M&F HERS suggested: 30 seconds of all-out intensity craziness followed by 90 seconds of cool down, and then repeat for 20 minutes.* The first day I was on the treadmill and this morning I was on the bike.

Even being a novice at HIIT, I know that the key with this type of exercise is to not slack off. The energy bursts have to be crazy intense — you pretty much have to look like a lunatic for 30 seconds. If it gets me results, though, I could care less!

Steph

Watch me do it!

*As an example, today on the bike (after warming up on Level 2 for 3 minutes), I put the bike on Level 10 and started cycling as fast and hard as I could for 30 seconds. Then, I brought my heart rate back down for 90 seconds by switching to Level 4. I repeated the same thing for 20 minutes, but I did the remaining all-out bursts at Level 12. By the third burst, my legs were burning and I was breathing hard. Time flies because just after you recover, you are back at it again, looking like a lunatic for another 30 seconds.

The Trifecta of Physical Fintess

19 Apr

There is something about a person with great shoulders, awesome abs, and cut up calves that says “physically fit”. The eye just seems to fall to those areas, especially on a woman. I like to think of it as the Trifecta of Physical Fitness.

As awesome as it is, it easy to ignore the Trifecta, and I think it’s pretty rare to see on someone. I’m definitely guilty of ignoring abs and calves. I used to forget about them all the time, adding them in only when I felt like it.

With the diet, I began to train my abs daily, mostly in my living room after AM cardio, but now I do weighted abs 3-4x a week. After my diet ended, I added in calves as part of my quad day. I go heavy and do a lot of drop sets. I make them scream at me. Greg said he sees new growth, and I am excited for more!

I’ll put up some “Before” pictures of my shoulders, abs, and calves over the next week. I need some more motivation to make progress in those areas. Public pictures always seem to do the trick.

Speaking of, I promised a picture of my back, as the “Before” picture in my 8-week quest to get a more defined V-shape. I did the new back routine two days ago on Saturday and my back is sore today. That’s good though — it’s rare for me to experience soreness after back day, so I know I did something right. The wide grip pull downs really got me!

April 19, 2010 "Before" Back -- Working on building up those lats

Steph

Watch me do it!

I wish it were 1992!

18 Apr

One of my favorite sources of inspiration and motivation is my husband’s old bodybuilding magazines and books. Today I was looking through the July 1992 Muscle Mag International issue and it made me wish for that sense of fun and excitement in bodybuilding that we don’t see much of anymore. I mean, just look at the clothes they wore! I love it all — the spandex and stripes, the over-sized T’s and the funky hair. Even the way bodybuilders posed was fun. Everything was exciting back then. New supplementation discoveries were being made and there was a lot of creative thinking going on. It was just cool.

July 1992 Muscle Mag International

As usual, it was quiet today in the gym. I did chest and light shoulder and ended with 30 minutes of cardio.

I started with heavy flat bench chest press, then moved to cable cross-overs, then incline bench press, and for my final exercise I did some dumbbell pull-overs.

For shoulders, I did some light dumbbell side raises (using 10 lb. dumbbells), making sure to focus on getting my elbows up. I supersetted those with upright barbell rows (using the 40 lb. bar for the first set and the 30 lb. bar for the second and third set).

I did 3 sets of each exercise with 10-12 reps each, except for the initial chest press. For that exercise, I did 6-8 reps using 35 lb. dumbbells. Next time I’ll try to have a spotter so I can get the 40 lb. dumbbells up.

I took down my Daily Journal page. It’s just stressful to keep it updated. I’ve got to find a way to get my written journal up on the blog. Maybe I’ll start taking pictures of it every day and posting it that way. Anyway, I’ve been continuing to curb the carbs and keep the protein high. I’ve been eating plenty of fats too — coconut oil, flax seed, olive oil and almonds have been my main sources.

Here’s my menu for this week. Doesn’t it look delicious? I’m excited for tonight’s salmon! Of course all of the dishes have some carbs because I made this with my husband in mind, but I only eat a little. The desserts are for my husband too — I made gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies for him last night and he loves them!

Dinner Menu

Steph

*Watch me do it*

Ok, Oxygen, let’s see what you got

17 Apr

Since I changed my training split, I do back on Saturdays. I have known for a while that I’ve needed to do something new with my back training. I don’t really think about back that much. I just do 3-5 exercises on back day to get through it and move on. My lack of focus shows because by now I should have bigger back muscles and a better V-taper. But I don’t, and I want to do something about it.

So I’m thinking about all of this and I noticed that the latest Oxygen magazine has an entire article dedicated to back training specifically for getting that coveted V-shape. I’ve never followed much advice from Oxygen (or any other magazine) about training, but I decided that I will try the back routine that was outlined in the article. If anything, I will be able to form a good opinion about what I think of Oxygen’s training advice!

My new back day will look like this:

  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps ea. of barbell rows
  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps ea. of wide grip pull down
  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps ea. of close grip pull down
  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps ea. of seated row

I’m going to do this routine for the next two months (8 weeks), and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of results I get. I’ll have Greg take some pictures of my back today and I’ll post them and compare them to “progress” pictures in June.

Update: 9:15pm 4/17/2010 – Wow! That was such a great workout today — I really must have been wimping out on my back…I was exhausted by the end of the 3rd exercise. Now I wonder what else I’ve been slacking off on!! Greg and I forgot to take a back picture today, but I’ll post one tomorrow.

At the gym after quads and calves yesterday

Steph

*Watch me do it*

My post-diet-carb-freak-out

15 Apr

Even though one of the main points of doing a 12-week diet was to start building the self-discipline to eat clean on a consistent basis, I didn’t realize the emotional aspect of changing my eating habits forever. There’s a lot to think about and things that seemed simple suddenly got confusing and completely overwhelming.

Enter the post-diet-carb-freak-out.

I realized immediately after the diet that even though I was still eating 6 meals a day, the introduction of more carbs immediately led to a feeling of “puffiness” and within a few days, I gained some LBs.

I’ve always joked and said that I could eat a grape and gain weight. What I didn’t realize is that I was actually onto something. Grapes happen to have a Glycemic Index (GI) value of 46, which means they are more sugary (i.e., more carby) than other fruits like grapefruit, cherries, strawberries, pears, and apples. Of course,eating grapes isn’t going to result in saggy arm fat. But what I knew then–even though I didn’t really do anything about it– was that my body uses carbs to bulk. And fast.

This is all pretty funny considering that bodybuilders often eat a heavier carb diet in the “off-season” to bulk so they can lift more and gain muscle. I just never stopped to consider that all this time, I wanted to get LEAN, but I continued to eat carbs like I was bulking. Hmmm.

Of course I dropped a lot of carbs during my 12-week diet and even more in the last 4 weeks of the diet. And guess what — I got a lot leaner! However, realizing that the body I want will be the product of a low-carb diet for life was, in a strange way, hard for me to embrace. What should I eat? How should I eat? Suddenly, I didn’t know. Should I always be on a diet? Will I be too restrictive in my food choices?  Ahh!!

Some simple math eases my anxiety

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I realize that I was making things too difficult. Yesterday I said that I applied some numbers to the issue and it helped me work through it. Here’s what I did.

I realized that I still lost weight on my diet and I cheated every week. My cheat meals consisted of far more carbs than any meal during the rest of the week. 12 cheat meals in 12 weeks meant that 2.3% of the time on my diet, I was carbing it up, but I was still able to lose weight.

What that means is I don’t have to worry about gaining weight from eating higher carbs, if I limit those times to roughly once a week, or about 50 meals a year. Granted, that’s not very many meals considering the roughly 2,136 meals that I will eat this year. But on my vacation, I used about 4 or 5 of my yearly “cheat” meals, and that was OK with me because I knew I would come back to the lower-carb diet and my body would respond appropriately.

With my mind at ease now, I’m ready to embrace my new lifestyle and find ways to be creative with my diet.

Steph

Watch me do it!

A guilt-free and awesome vacation

14 Apr

Oh how I love vacation!! Last Sunday, I left for Bonita Springs, FL for some girl time with my good friend and college sorority sister, Suzy and her friend Amanda. We went to the beach, spent an afternoon on a fishing boat with Captain Kevin exploring Captiva Island, saw dolphins swim and play just a few feet from us, watched girlie movies, played board games, and relaxed by the pool. For four days, there was no CPA studying, no job hunting, no cleaning, and no worrying about diets.

Me and Suzy posing at the beach. April 12, 2010

I ate a clean breakfast every day of Kashi hot cereal, strawberries and Greek yogurt, had snacks of almonds and apples, and lunches consisting of rice, beans, fish, and salads. But I definitely used up some of my cheat meals on the trip. I had pizza and yogurt covered pretzels (because I was craving them after a few glasses of wine). I had a delicious limeade rum punch. Those food choices had nothing to do with energy, fat burning, or growing muscles and everything to do with just enjoying myself. And I did. Thoroughly.

I took a few long walks, but I mostly lounged around and worked on my tan. On Monday morning I did abs in my room, but that was the extent of working out. It was a nice break, although I started to miss training by Tuesday.

I haven’t stepped on the scale, but I’ve definitely put on a few pounds since the end of my diet. The carbs and cheats have done it. No big deal though. Tomorrow I’ll do AM cardio before my first meal and I’ll fall back into eating for energy, fat burning, and muscle growth. I can’t wait to lift too. I’ll do hamstrings, glutes, and abs.

Near Captiva and the Gulf of Mexico. Look closely and you can see three dolphins in the water!!

On the boat to Captiva! Most definitely not a "progress" picture, but this is what I looked like!!

Tomorrow I’ll share my post-diet-carb-freak-out. The emotional aspect of learning things about yourself and how different foods help you lose and GAIN weight is kind of crazy. I didn’t really want to own the fact that carbs make me gain weight. But they do and I’m having to deal with the big changes that come with a long-term lower carb diet. Forever the analyst, I’ve figured out a way to look at it from a numbers perspective, which actually helped to make this vacation guilt-free and even more awesome. I’ll share more later.

Steph

Watch me do it!