Contest Prep, Fitness, Nutrition

The Rebound

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Rebounding is just one of those things… after you reach a goal weight or successfully complete a contest prep, the rebound that follows seems to be the natural part of the process. Or is it? What I it were possible to lose weight and actually keep it off for good and maintain your body weight while maybe even improving your body’s composition? And, dare I say, what if you could be stage ready year round? OMG right? There are some things that can be done to make this happen and these mostly come down to one massive concept: mindset.

Mindset is a very tricky thing because it can be used for some really positive things, but it can also stop you right in your tracks without even being aware that you are part of the problem. Losing weight is the perfect example as you have a specific goal in mind, a magical number to reach on the scale or by dress size. that becomes your focus and seeps into all aspects of your life in that you are always mindful of the quality and quantity of food that you are choosing to consume each day and how it will affect your results. The problem usually kicks in after you’ve reached your goal when one of two things happens: either you went too low in calories and/or certain macros for too long, or there is no follow through or maintenance plan in place to help you, well, maintain your physique. Either way your mindset will take a hit once you surpassed your goal. Sometimes it can be by rewarding yourself or celebrating your achievement with food which can lead to a binge that lasts several days, and sometimes it can be the fact that you no longer have a super specific goal to keep you on track and you’re just lost.

One very popular concept floating around, but very rarely being practiced is moderation. So many of us want balance, we want to be able to enjoy foods, eat what we want when we want it. I’ve heard countless say “everything in moderation is key” or “the 80/20 rule is the way to go”, I’ve tried these things and they don’t work and not just for me but for pretty much everybody. Why? because moderation is REALLY hard, much harder than losing weight and cutting out certain foods altogether. The hard truth is that most of us can’t stop at just one or two bites, no matter how well intentioned we are we just don’t have the will power. I can absolutely attest to this. I know that when I taste something really decadent, I am all in and I will eat the entire box of cookies or pizza or mac n cheese (all vegan versions of course, animal based would make me sick!). As much as I wish I could be the type of person that has just a taste and moves on, I’m not and most people are exactly like me. As I mentioned, it can lead to a full on cheat day or binge that can massively impact not only how you look, but your health as well. When you diet down and lose body fat, your metabolism becomes very sensitive and so a sudden increase in calories especial from fat combined with simple carbohydrates will cause an increase in body fat and will ultimately impact your cardiac health too.

Another important factor in all of this is the fact that as humans we are physiologically hard wired to survive no matter what. When we lose weight or try to, our bodies signals to our brains that we may starve, so the next time you do indulge or everything in you is pushing you to eat, eat and eat. This is why it sometimes feels as if we lose control when eating or as if our bodies are trying to fight us. Our bodies aren’t actually fighting us, they are trying to protect us from starvation and ultimately death. That’s all it is, it’s not because we lack self-control or we are weak, it’s just cause we’re all made that way. Again, this is why moderation very seldom works.

This is why so many bodybuilders pack on weight in the week following a show. Everybody has a victory meal; it’s part of the contest process and part of the culture. Most athletes have been low carb and without a treat meal for so long that it’s all they can think about during peak week, so when the show is over they go nuts. I’ve seen people step off stage and run directly to their coach or family member who is waiting for them with a box of donuts. I can understand why and I certainly engage in the victory meal, but I also know that I’m not gonna feel great right after either. I get bloated and heartburn, it’s not good. In the days following the competition, my muscle definition drops and my six pack of abs starts to fade away along with my spraytan. Now most of this is because I rehydrate and so everything plumps up, but some of it is also body fat. If one  cheat meal leads to a day and then a week, well I would definitely gain back some fat.

As a woman, being at 10% body fat over the long term can impact the hormones, so the best way to be “stage ready” long term is to work directly with your doctor and your coach to find the right combination and possible hormone therapy. Yup, that’s right, anything less than 13% will usually cause amenorrea which can lead to osteoporosis and thyroid problems, so it’s very important to work with a doctor here. Now you may not be super shredded all the time because you can’t be depleted of water all the time, so another equally important part of this is to keep your electrolytes in balance by keeping your water intake high while lightly salting all meals and including potassium rich foods in the diet such as potatoes, winter squash, white beans and bananas. That way you won’t hold on to any excess water weight and you won’t be depleted of electrolyte either. The other two big components here are to hit the gym hard and use an extra calories as a means to mass gain and pack on muscle, and obviously to eat quality food that nourishes you, even if that includes sprouted grains waffles with some earth balance and maple syrup 😊

For the non-competitor who recently hit a milestone in their fitness journey and reached their goal weight or finally dropped those last 5 pounds, the a great option to making it last is the reverse diet. Essentially you will be slowly adding in calories back into your diet usually on a weekly basis. How much to add can be tricky to figure out so it may be best to consult with a nutrition coach for help with this one. Usually a couple extra hundred calories will do the trick so long as all meals are balanced and you are still working out hard. If you are going to have some treats, as a rule of thumb stay away from refined sugars and starches and opt for something that may be a bit easier for your tummy to digest. One thing that’s easy to incorporate is switching to whole grains whether it’s flours in baking, past or bread, that alone will help you get in extra fiber and micronutrients.

Having the right mindset is the difference between just reaching your goal and moving beyond that goal. Just remember that it doesn’t have to be this horrible fight with yourself; it doesn’t have to be this big struggle where you have to be super strict for the rest of your life. Change your mindset and start seeing the reality that food is here to nourish you and that’s all, the fact that it tastes great is just the added bonus.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my Summer Special for the month July!

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

The Skinny Complex

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I remember from a young age and even today being praised for being tiny and skinny. I remember standing in my bedroom at 6 years old and knowing how much I weighed and that it was a good thing that the number was so small. I remember being a teenager and a relative of mine stood next to me and said to our family “Look how small Denise is, she’s half my size!”. I remember this past summer, running into a friend after I had just gone for a jog and her saying to me “Oh my God, you’re so nice and skinny, it’s amazing”. I thought that things were shifting, that people were starting to see health before skinny, that the focus was on taking care of yourself instead of losing weight. I was completely wrong. Nothing has changed. People are still obsessed with being skinny. The more time goes by, the more I think that it’s getting worse.

At every family gathering, the conversation always shifts to losing weight regardless of what else is going on in our lives, it always goes back to being thin. I even had one relative ask me for advice when she mentioned that her biggest issue was that she gets so busy during the day, she forgets to eat and then goes home and overeats. Before I share my response, I would like to say this : HOW CAN ANYONE FORGET TO EAT?! Seriously!!!! I have never forgotten to eat; it is a concept so foreign to me. But I guess it does happen so I suggested that she pack a little something ahead of time that she can toss in her purse as a snack or buy something like individual prepackaged unsalted nuts or fresh cut fruit and leave them in the fridge at her office. Well, it was in one ear and out the other, she had this glazed over look in her eye and instantly responded with “well, that would mean that I’d have to be organized which I am not”. If that’s what you truly think of yourself and what you say to yourself, then that’s exactly what you’ll be. What you’re really saying is that you’re too lazing to eat right. That’s the bottom line, it’s harsh, but the truth hurts. Needless to say, the conversation went right back to losing weight. No mention of health or wellness or nutrition, it was all about the number on the scale dropping.

For some reason people always feel the need to point out when someone is skinny or eating healthy. It’s always such a big deal. A prime example was when I went out to dinner with some friends and the only plant based option on the menu was a salad, so that’s what I ordered. Out of the 9 of us, each one of the ladies at one point or another during the evening would say “Denise, you must be starving!”. This happened non-stop throughout  the night. No matter how many times I repeated that I was good because I eat every 2 hours anyway so I was perfectly fine, they kept on making a fuss over my meal and pointing out that I was eating light. It’s not as if I was sitting there staring at everyone else’s plates and salivating, or saying “that looks so good, I wish I could eat that!” That wasn’t the case at all, trust me when I say that I was really very much good with my salad. Finally towards the end of the night after my trying to no avail to convince my group that I wasn’t depriving myself of nourishment, one friend turned to me and said “I think we are making a bigger deal out of this than it actually is”. Yes, yes you were.

I like to think that when people say things or point things out that it’s coming from a place of love and concern, but really it’s not. If anything, it’s coming from a place of discomfort. People are genuinely uncomfortable eating with someone who is choosing a lighter option when they are eating something a bit more decadent. At this point it’s happened so many times that it no longer surprises me. I’ve heard it all. The saddest one was when after enjoying a big dinner, I had turned desert because I was stuffed and the back-handed response I received was “well, you’ve become very reasonable haven’t you?” This was coming from a person who admitted to hiding in the kitchen and stuffing their face with cookies when their mother had passed away just minutes before. It’s tragic, it’s suffering. I’m sad for this person because I know that they are hurting, but that at this point they’ve given up on themselves, and yet they still feel the need to point out that my husband and I are always reasonable when it comes to eating habits and always says it with a touch of disdain.

Another aspect of The Skinny Complex is self-deprication. A few days ago a friend of mine pointed out that the ladies in her family who appear to be slim always point out that they’ve gained a few pounds, or need to work on their tummy or love handles or try to get rid of their muffin top. These ladies unfortunately feel the need to point it out and claim that they have these so-called flaws. Why are these flaws? Why do we need to point them out? Self-deprication is just a way of protecting yourself, by pointing out what you think is wrong with you before anyone else might. First of all, nobody notices this stuff on other people because they are so busy thinking about themselves and their own “flaws”. Think about it: Do you seek out the cellulite on other women? Do you stare at woman’s midsection if she doesn’t have a six pack of abs? My guess is that you don’t, I know that I don’t and when I realized this, I realized how ridiculous we can all be. The negative self-talk isn’t something that you would say to anyone else, ever.

This obsession is so intense, being skinny seems to be on everyone’s mind all the time, whether they realize it or not. The comments I’ve heard, the conversations I’ve had, the back-handed snarky remarks thrown at me are all just projections of other peoples issues. A person’s size has nothing to do with anything whatsoever. Being a certain dress size is not an accomplishment at all and it doesn’t deserve to be praised in any way. Just because someone may appear slim doesn’t mean that they are healthy and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’ve done something so miraculous that it needs to be pointed out. An accomplishment in terms of physique would be someone who decides to become healthier by becoming more active or starting to eat more whole foods and balanced meals. Dress size has nothing to do with it, looks have nothing to do with it. Focus on health above anything else, because it’s everything. When you’re health is not 100% everything stops, priorities shift and suddenly the number on the scale or those emails that you just have to respond to or that Instagram post that you just have to put up no longer matter.

Those comments that I heard when I was younger could have been so damaging and dangerous to me; I couldn’t become terribly sick as a result of that. The reason why I didn’t was honestly because I have always enjoyed exercising, I’m terrible at sports, but working out has always been fun. Everything from doing workout videos with my mom in our basement to taking up jogging with my dad and then weightlifting in recent years with my husband. Being exposed to that from an early age helped me understand and become aware of health above size. Everything that I’ve done in terms of nutrition, diet, weight loss and workouts have always been driven by my wanting to be as healthy as possible, not as thin as possible.

The next time you catch yourself pointing out someone else’s meal or size or anything of that sort, stop before you speak and think about why you are saying this. Remember that this is only you projecting some insecurity onto someone else and keep in mind that it may even impact that other person in a negative way (especially if they are young). Just focus on yourself and your well being, instead of how everyone else looks compared to you. Stop the cycle, stop hurting yourself and please start recognizing that skinny is not something to be praised or celebrated. Being physically active, eating a well balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body are what should be celebrated and considered inspiring. Be the best you every day, eat to live and be well.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Fearing Failure

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One of the biggest lessons that I have learned on my health and fitness journey has been this:

                                             The body achieves what the mind believes

This statement is so huge and has had a massive impact on how well I’ve been able to progress overtime and stay consistent in that continuous development. A person’s success in weight loss, overall health improvement and long term maintenance is 100% dependent on their mindset. That’s where the fear of failure comes into play.

Fear is what holds us back and stops us in our tracks from going after something or taking it to the next level. I’ve heard all kinds of so called “reasoning” that people tell themselves when it comes to their fitness  and weight loss goals and it always comes back to the fear of failure. For example, I had a conversation with a relative of mine a few weeks ago who mentioned that she was concerned that if she tried to be plant-based that she would be hungry all the time. My response to that was “If you are hungry, then you need to eat”. Simple enough right? Hunger (not a craving!) is a sign that your body needs more fuel and nourishment…so just eat more!  What’s stopping you from doing so? There is no reason to fear hunger or to overthink your nutrition. What I believe the thought process around being hungry on a plant-based diet stems from is the fear of feeling deprived or of having cravings all the time. This only happens if you don’t eat enough, don’t eat a balanced diet or miss out on important nutrients that your body needs. So just eat already! Yes, take a proactive approach to your nutrition and inform yourself of eating well (whether plant based or not), but then take action and just go for it instead of sitting around overthinking it and worrying about how “hungry” you may feel.

Another solid example of fearing failure also came from another relative who said that she was worried that if she started to clean up her diet, maybe try a few meatless meals that her family would not be on board and she would end up having to cook separate meals to appease everybody. To that I say, it may be time to show your family a little tough love. You are not doing your family or yourself any favours by serving food that is lacking nutrients, that is overly processed and just unhealthy. Don’t you want your family to be as healthy as possible so that they can live a long and fulfilling life? Because if that’s the case, then their diets absolutely need to be healthy all the time. If you are constantly giving in when they say let’s order in again or I won’t eat vegetables even if they are deep fried in chocolate sauce, then your loved ones on are the fast track to a life filled with countless health problems. And this goes for anyone at any age even if they don’t look overweight. When I was younger, before how learned how to cook, it didn’t matter whether I wanted french fries for dinner instead of lentil soup, that’s what was prepared by my mom and that’s all that I could have. Same goes for my husband when he was young. My mother in-law mentioned that if he didn’t like what was being served then it was too bad for him, that was the meal and he could either go hungry or eat. Needless to say his stubbornness and attempt at a hunger strike was very short lived. That’s the case with everyone; they may give you grief but it won’t last long. Hunger is very powerful and unless your loved are willing to cook for themselves (which chances are they probably won’t ) they’re going to eat what you put in front of them. You’re the boss of the kitchen, you set the rules, so make it healthy, stand strong and show off your tough love muscles.

A third and rather funny example of fearing failure that I hear all the time has to do with fitness, mostly weightlifting. “I don’t want to bulk up”, “I need to lose weight before I should start weightlifting”, “I need to get in better shape before I can start weightlifting”. These always make me laugh on the inside because each one of these examples is completely false! I’ve already address multiple times why you won’t bulk up from weightlifting so I’m not gonna go there now. In terms of needing to lose weight or get in better shape before picking up some dumbbells, stop and think about what you are ACTUALLY saying here. You are stating that you need to get “in better shape” before you can get in shape. That makes no sense at all. How can you get in shape before you get in shape? You don’t have to start by benching 200lbs or working with massive weights, I certainly didn’t, in fact I started by working out with a pairs of 2lbs dumbbells in my bedroom . You lift weights to get stronger and to sculpt your body regardless of your excess bodyweight and fat. If that’s not enough to convince you then keep in mind that diet will and cardio alone will only take you so far (that’s why you’ll see a lot of puny and soft looking people who are runners or cyclist), also the more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day, and too much cardio can actually impact your posture making your belly round outwards a bit.

My current fear failure has to do with how hard I can push myself during workouts, mostly in terms of how heavy I can actually lift. It’s a big hindrance for me as this fear is stopping me from growing, from getting stronger and from becoming the best version of myself possible. This is all from a mix of self-doubt and discomfort; I don’t think that I can actually lift so much and I’m trying to protect myself from the difficulty of it. With this though, I’m only hurting myself and preventing myself from getting as much gains as possible and crushing it on show day. A wise lady once said : Always lift heavier than you think you can. This wise individual was actually Miss Piggy and these are words to live by! With my current prep I’ve become far more self-aware and I have built up my mind-muscle connection so know I am able to recognize when my body can handle a heavier load with each session. Each week I try to lift heavier than I had from the previous week and always worked out for the best. My mantra now is if I’m not swearing to myself by the end of each set (usually something like mother f*#^!r), then it’s not heavy enough. That’s just what works for me and my current goals though; it is different for each one of us so think about what your gauge would be.

Ultimately our minds are just trying to protect us from harm, whether it be physical or psychological as well. We don’t want to get injured, embarrassed or leered at for a making a mistake. At the end of the day though, bringing awareness to that fear and working through it and in spite of it will finally allow you to get to where you want to be. You can lose the weight, keep it off and get strong; it is possible but at a certain point you have see past the roadblocks that you are creating and just do it. It is you vs you, it is your reality vs your stories that you keep telling yourself. Recognize them and then move beyond them. When you get to the other side, it is a beautiful thing because you can finally see and achieve the endless possibilities in your journey fitness.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Contest Prep, Fitness

The Myths of Women in Fitness

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There are so many misconceptions about women in fitness it’s almost hard to keep track of. From fat shaming those without a six pack of abs year round to claiming that Figure athletes look like men or that Bikini isn’t really bodybuilding, the list goes on and on. Not only are people bashing bodybuilding in general, but many are even shaming fitness enthusiasts who are proud to share their progress pics on social media and hoping to maybe offer up some inspiration. It’s sad to think that taking care of your physical self first has brought out the worst in people.

Let’s start off with one particular myth that really grinds my gears: Women being portrayed as overexposed, provocative sex-kittens. This one really bothers me because it is partially true, but it’s not always the case. Yes, in men’s fitness magazines most features of women are rather provocative and showcase photos of models and athletes dressed fairly scantily-clad. I will say that in some circumstances I have a hard time differentiating certain athletes from porn stars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; if anyone feels comfortable and confident in themselves to pose and dress that way, then more power to you! It’s just not for me and it certainly isn’t the standard for all female athletes and fitness models. This style of photography certainly does cater to their main market and audience, and it’s what sells magazines, but it’s not as though every woman in fitness has to be a smoldering temptress all the time.

The next big myth is that female bodybuilders and women who lift weight and train hard will look like men. This usually refers to the concept of women who “bulk up”, which is really hard to do. For any woman who is hesitant of working out hard and hitting the weight room for fear of bulking up, trust me when I say that you won’t. I’ve been trying to mass gain for 2 years and it is a very slow and long process that doesn’t just happen because you tried out the leg press machine. That being said, there’s a lot of negative talk around female bodybuilders in that many will scoff at the athletes claiming that they are too muscular, unfeminine and flat chested. It’s really tragic to hear these things and to notice when these dedicated athletes may get stares from strangers in public. I see these ladies as impressive, strong and inspiring; it takes so much to build and sculpt yourself. What most people don’t realize is the work that goes into it and not just in the gym or in the kitchen, but also with one’s entire lifestyle as well. And while some may say “I would never want to look like that” I say “Don’t worry, you never will”.

As for Bikini not being taken seriously as bodybuilding, well I’d like to respond to these naysayers personally by saying this: Come work out with me just once and see if you still think that when we’re done. Bikini competitors have to work out just as hard as other bodybuilders, if not harder because we are looking to build muscle in the right areas, stay balanced, proportional and symmetrical while leaning out but not getting too shredded either. We are just as regimented with nutrition and spend hours working out in the gym each day. What’s really terrible is that a lot of this comes from people in the bodybuilding community. For example, at the first competition that I saw the group sitting behind me started grumbling about Bikini when the athletes came onstage saying some pretty ignorant things. Another example that really hit close to home came from my lovely husband who, when I told my family that I was going to compete, felt the need to utter the following”For 5 minutes onstage you’re going to look like a stripper”. Needless to say my crazy eyes were enough to bring him back down to earth before my urge to take a swing at him kicked in.

For some reason most people just can’t see past the fact that it’s a woman in a two piece. Male bodybuilders aren’t exactly covered up either; their posing trunks would shame even the tiniest of speedos. There is a reason why posing suits are that size…it’s because the more material on the suit, the wider your waist and glutes will look. On stage we pose a certain way to showcase both muscle mass and symmetry. All divisions require different styles of posing because weight classes and body shapes across each categories will vary and seeing someone like holding front double biceps would be very underwhelming and unimpressive as well.

Going back to the whole “sex-kitten” myth, it’s very frustrating. Maybe some women compete because they want to feel that way and are proud of it, what’s so wrong with that? Seriously! When did it become a bad thing to be so proud of how you look that you choose to stand on stage with the highest self-esteem imaginable among other strong women? In my case, I can honestly say that I compete because of the journey to stage, the process of contest prep and because it’s really fun to get glamed up and be onstage. I’m not trying to be all smoking hot (that’s just an added perk!), I’m an athlete and bodybuilder and I am proud of it. This process, this lifestyle is not about how others view me or their opinions of me either, it’s about bringing my best to each day, giving my all to each workout and challenging myself to prioritize my health above all else all the time.

As for fat shaming those without the “perfect body” honestly, just shut your stupid face, because chances are you’re no prize either and there is no such thing as the perfect body.

As I sit here finishing this rant, I am 7 weeks out from hitting the stage  for a second time and I can’t wait. On show day I choose to focus on myself and presenting my best instead of scoping out the competition and sizing up the other athletes. What others think or say doesn’t matter to me anymore; this process has taught me how easy it is to move past this. All anyone really has is this one body in this life, so take care of it, nurture it and instead of finding flaws in others, consider changing gears towards bettering yourself each day forward.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

 

Fitness

No More Excuses

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I could come up with countless reasons why I shouldn’t workout on any given day. In fact, I used to do this all the time. Now however I’ve moved past this, but that doesn’t mean that these thoughts still don’t cross my mind now and then. Today for example I could easily use the fact that there’s piles of snow outside or that the bus ride to the gym is long or that it’s really out of my way or that I’m tired, overworked and stressed and that I’ve been working out consistently for so long that I “deserve” a break for at least one extra day. Excuses are a dime a dozen; so easy to come by at the drop of a hat. At a certain point though, we all have to own up to the fact that these “valid reasons” we think up are just a lame way for us to rationalize why we aren’t putting in the effort to be healthy all the time.

I’ve mentioned many times now that I always do a mix of cardio and weight lifting (and not just for contest prep, but year round too). Two-a-day workouts might seem overwhelming at first, but now it’s just part of the routine. There was a time though when I would hit the snooze in the morning and say to myself “I’m too tired for cardio, I’ll sleep it off instead of hitting the pavement” or I’d come home from work and say to myself “I’ve had a long day, I don’t feel like lifting weights so I’ll just take an extra day off this week”… excuses at their finest.

Thankfully I’ve now chosen to make my workouts non-negotiable in that I always do my scheduled cardio and weight training no matter what may pop up or potentially throw off my schedule. How? By having a set plan, a backup plan and an alternate backup plan as well. It may sound like a lot, but trust me when I say that it’s not and that it’s made my life far more simpler than before.

In terms of cardio, weather permitting I go for a run outside; 20 minutes and I throw in a few sprint intervals along the way. In the winter or even super rainy days though, I run the stairs of my condo building. Very effective, very intense, very awesome. I created a 20 minutes stair climbing program so that I can still work up a sweat no matter what.

Here’s what it looks like:

Round 1 
3 minutes:
Walk up each step at a normal pace.
Once the top floor is reached, walk down each step at a normal pace.
2 minutes:
Walk up taking the steps 2 at a time
Once the top floor is reached, run down each step at a fast pace (continue to
run down each flight of stairs at a fast pace for remainder of workout)

Round 2
3 minutes:
Walk up each step at a normal pace, taking a sumo squat style stance; a wide
stance with feet slightly turned out, really push off of the heels to work
the glutes.
2 minutes:
Walk up taking 2 steps at a time in a sumo stance

Round 3
3 minutes:
Run up each step at a fast pace
1 minute:
Walk up each step sideways, facing the right, crossing the right leg over the
left.
1 minute:
Walk up each step sideways, facing the left, crossing the left leg over the right.

Round 4
3 minutes:
Walk up each step at a normal pace, sumo stance
2 minutes:
Walk up 2 steps at a time, sumo stance
Done!

This has worked super well for me for the past few weeks. Now I know you might be a bit self-conscious and thinking “what if my neighbours walk by and see me working out? what if people look at me funny? what if I’m in someone’s way?” And I totally get that. The first few times I did this workout, I would always stop and move out of the way if someone came into the stairwell. That ended pretty soon though, as it was inconvenient for me to always have to interrupt my workout. So instead I don’t bother; there’s plenty of room for my neighbours to walk by me on the staircase without either of us having to squish. As for worrying about how it might look or what others think, honestly who cares? I’d rather get my workout in and have a cellulite free tush, then worry about somebody that I don’t even know possibly thinking that I look odd working out. Seriously, stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, most are so focused on themselves that they don’t even notice others around and if they do it’s only for a fraction of a second and that’s it.

What’s my backup plan to this? Well I stay in my home and do 1 minute intervals of cardio movements.

Here’s what it looks like:

Round 1
2 minute light jog in place
1 minute running in place with high knees
1 minutes running in place, heels to booty motion, fast pace
1 minute jumping jacks
2 minute speed skaters
1 minute double unders (jump rope style)
1 minute alternating front kicks, normal pace
1 minute alternating back kicks, normal pace

Round 2
Repeat all of round one
Done!

This came in handy the other day when the walls were being painted in the stairwell and there was no way for me to get my cardio in otherwise. When all else fails I always have on hand some workout videos that I bought a few years ago that involve either kickboxing, or some other intense aerobic interval cardio for 20 minutes.

There’s always a way to get a workout in. Any excuse is just a waste of your time that is ultimately only going to hurt you and you alone. If you keep going with these so called “reasons” to keep you from being fit, then you’ll never get there; you’ll never drop the weight and never really be living up to your full potential. Trust me when I say this, I’ve been. Once I did start to fully recognize that this was me, everything changed in a big way and I was finally able to breakthrough that block and start making some serious fitness headway, and so can you!

No more excuses, go out there and get it done!

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

And so it begins…

We finally made it to 2017 (good riddance to 2016!) and with the new year upon us that usual means that gyms are now packed with newbies and that the majority of people are going on a diet. All I can say to that is that I hope it works; I hope that everyone who has made it their new year’s resolution to lose weight, get fit and healthy, sticks with it.

I must admit that I was wrong about diets when I said in the past that diets don’t work; in reality diets do work but they are a short term solution to a lifelong journey. If you want to lose weight and keep it off for good, it’s all about having a fit lifestyle meaning sound nutrition and challenging workouts for the rest of your life. That’s right, I said THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. A quick fix fad diet (can you say The Cabbage Soup Diet?) or gimmicky fitness gadget is not going to do it, and it’s not going to happen overnight either. After all, it took me eight months of intense training to prep for my first show in 2016, not to mention the years of at-home workouts and proper nutrition just to get into okay-ish shape to begin with.

Case in point:

20160407_194511                      APQ Coupe Espoir 2017

On the left is me in March 2016 and the right is November 2016…

Clearly it’s a marathon not a sprint. In eight months I dropped 20 pounds and went from 23% bodyfat to 15% bodyfat. All of this done without going to any crazy extreme such as subsisting on protein shakes and celery for months on end or taking chemical fat burners that cause massive indigestion or taking chemical diuretics that having you running to the bathroom every 20 minutes the night before the show or doing 90 minutes of fasted cardio every single day for five months in the hopes of getting stage ready. These are just a few strategies that my fellow competitors mentioned to me on show day as we chatted about our prep. I kept it real throughout my training by eating right, getting lots of sleep, drinking so much water – 6 litres a day at one point so that I wouldn’t have to take anything harsh to shed the water weight, and of course lifting weights and getting in my cardio.

Taking an approach that allows you to incorporate healthy strategies in all areas of your life is the key to finally shedding the weight for good, getting in shape and being healthy .This is one thing that you can do for yourself and that you can completely control. Yes it’s challenging  at first, but wouldn’t it be nice to go to the doctor’s for your physical and not have to sit through another lecture about how you have to lose weight or you’re at risk for this ailment or that disease because of your unhealthy habits or that you may have to start taking medication for your blood pressure, fatty liver, high cholesterol, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice to just go for your physical, be in and out of your doctor’s office within 2o minutes? Trust me when I say that it’s really nice.

If you make your health a priority every single day, you can do anything because when you are well and healthy you will bring great energy to each challenge that’s sent your way. By now you may be thinking about how you’re going to do this, so let me make this easier for you with a few simple tips to keep in mind:

  1. Schedule your workouts for whenever it works best with your schedule as it is now. For example, if you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, it might not be the best idea to plan on hitting the weight room at 6am.
  2. If you just don’t have time to workout out for 30 to 60 minutes in one shot then break up your workout into 10 or 15 minute increments throughout the day wherever you can.
  3. Workout out consistently, that means 4-5 workout days per week FOREVER.
  4. Eat REAL food (not just prepackaged stuff – which includes low carb or high protein items) don’t just focus on calories, look at the entire label including macros, fibre and sugar.
  5. Make your life easier by carving out a few hours one day per week to meal prep
  6. Ladies: LIFT WEIGHTS don’t just do cardio or wait until you lose some weight first. Weightlifting is what will shape your body and no you won’t bulk – if you don’t believe me, scroll up to my photos above.
  7. For the guys who already lift weights: never neglect cardio, you won’t lose muscle if done correctly. If anything it’ll help keep you lean.
  8. Forget about sports drinks, you really don’t need them, unless you’re in the midst of a 3 day elite crossfit event or triathalon. Even the sugar free ones are unnecessary; stick with water and add a scoop of BCAAs only if your workout lasts longer than an hour.
  9. Turn off the tv, put your phone down and go to sleep. Make it non-negotiable and always give yourself at least eight hours every night in bed. If you’re not sleeping enough, your hormones will be all out of whack making you crave calorie dense food all day long.
  10. Stop thinking about how your going to get fit or how hard and overwhelming this is, and just do it. Get it done and before you know it, this will all be second nature to you.

*Bonus tip: Stop eating food just cause it’s there, just cause someone offered it to you, just cause you’re out with friends or at a family gathering or at a restaurant, just cause you don’t want to be wasteful, just cause your kid’s done eating and it’s just sitting on their plate, or just cause you’ve lost some weight and deserve it. YOU ARE NOT A GARBAGGE CAN, so stop treating yourself like one!

Keep in mind that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to a good health, so go at your pace, but make it happen. If you need to dive right in one shot then go for it or instead slowly ease yourself in if need be by incorporating new healthy habits and letting go of the unhealthy stuff on a weekly basis. Talk to a healthcare provider, hire a trainer or nutritionist if you need to, make an appointment at your gym to get some info, take a tour and scope it out before your first training session. Don’t just talk about how you know what works for you or that you prefer group fitness classes to solo training or in-person weight loss support groups to online program; actually start and stick with it, make this happen. Even though it may seem really hard at first and even a bit daunting, you can do this. Focus on your health above all else and make 2017 the beginning of your fit life.

Start It, Finish It

 

 

 

Contest Prep, Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

The Post-Contest Blues

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There is a term that competitive bodybuilders are all too familiar with and as the title of this article so clearly states, it’s called the post contest blues. Although I swore that I would never allow myself to feel down in the dumps after competing, it still has managed to creep up.

I must say that I thrilled with the results of competing and of the entire prep in general. Even though as you may have read in my previous post that there were quite a few hiccups on show day, I still felt great. I did everything right in that I focused only on myself and presenting my best, instead of thinking solely about winning and beating the other ladies onstage. It was my first competition after all, so I decided to take the pressure off, just enjoy the day and hopefully not let the nerves get the best of me. It was so much fun getting glamed up and finally going through each pose during pre-judging and finals. I’m so proud to have gotten not only first callouts, but also placing 5th in my first show! Every competitor looked amazing and there over 80 competitors in the Bikini Division alone, so needless to say I relished in my accomplishment.

However, as soon as finals was over and I headed backstage to throw on my sweatpants and gather my belongings, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of sadness. At that point, most of the competitors had left (as Bikini always goes last) and so what had been an area filled with excited athletes and their coaches was now quiet and empty. It was all over; the prep, the training, the makeup and spraytan retouches, the last minute posing practice, my very first show was done. That sadness only lasted for a moment though as all of a sudden I realized that all that intense work that I had put into my training would be (for a little while) over and that I could take a much needed break from working out and having a regimented meal plan everyday. This was going to be great! I had big plans for the following week: I was going to sleep in, lazy around my home in my pajamas all day, make myself a hot cup of coffee with almond milk (which I had to cut out for the final 6 weeks of my prep) and eat only when I felt hungry as opposed to nutrient timing. Suddenly, I felt excited again about the possibilities and much deserved break that were ahead of me.

Unfortunately it was very short lived. I woke up the following morning really early, so sleeping in was out of the question. The coffee and almond milk certainly helped as did my nice and hearty breakfast along with my comfy pajamas. It felt odd though being at home, not having to go to the gym or do my usual fasted cardio; instead of feeling rested I actually felt unproductive. What was worse was the fact that I no longer had a nutritional plan to follow, so my mind keep wandering all day to what my next meal should be, how big, how many of each macro and so on. Then the cravings started, not legit cravings or hunger, just stupid cravings that my mind was trying to convince my body that it absolutely had to have. It took a lot of willpower for me not to stuff myself with chocolate and peanut butter, but I was hanging in there and I knew better. Even though at that point I had already decided to compete again in just over 5 months time, I no longer had a clear vision of stepping onstage and of my next prep, so the crazy cravings were non-stop and my discipline was being tested.

My coach like many others had mentioned to me that it is perfectly normal to gain some weight back in the days and weeks that follow a competition, but that it was crucial to not binge or overdo it as I could end up rebounding too fast and ultimately pack on excess bodyfat (which is super unhealthy) that will be very hard to lose the second time around. One judge from the show had said that she had worked with athletes who gained 10, 20 and even 30 pounds within a week! That sort of thing not only messed with your physique, but also with your self-esteem and body image, as I’m sure you can imagine. So I powered through and stayed strong, but it was far more challenging than it had ever felt during my 8 months of training.

Thankfully my coach sent over my recovery plans including workouts and nutrition for the next month and all was right again in my world. Initially I had planned to take almost an entire week off from working out, but I only lasted 2 days. I followed my coach’s advice and started hitting gym for my usual two-a-day workouts (including fasted cardio), but my new workouts are much shorter and less intense than before (30-45 minutes of weightlifting instead of 60 to 90 minutes). The focus now is more on gaining muscle and lifting heavier without packing on too much bodyfat in the process. So far, so good.

I do feel a bit bloated on some days and I certainly notice that my six pack of abs are less prominent than on showday, but thanks to my calorie increase and restored glycogen levels I am happy to say that I look redonk! When I hit the weight room and lift in front of the mirror it surprises me every time to see how fit I am and how shredded I look. Each day I make it a point to take some time out to appreciate what I accomplished and how far I’ve come. All that hard work definitely paid off and the best part was that the entire process didn’t have me going to any extreme where I felt deprived  in any way (except for the water depletion, but even then I was so excited on showday that I didn’t even notice).

I’m sure that the recent weather changes, gray sky and (gulp!) snowfall really haven’t helped in my quest to stay positive (seasonal affective disorder anyone?), but it’s all part of the process. Staying on track and maintaining the good habits that I developed is what matters most during this break from prep. The next show will definitely be tougher as will my next prep; it won’t be novice athletes only, but instead will include some seasoned competitors with far more developed physiques. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but for now, before the intense training starts up again, I get to bask in meals filled with extra carbohydrates!

Start It, Finish It