Contest Prep, Wellness

Peak Week Pain Points

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Once again I have made it to Peak Week. It is the culmination of the entire contest prep process; from mass gaining all the way through to fat loss/cutting, this is the week where one’s physique is in it’s prime condition. This is the most exciting week of the entire experience, but it also tends to be the toughest too. After weeks and months of training, some may run out of steam right at the end because they went too hard for too long, while others breeze through with a big smile on their face. Either way, this final week of prep involves lots of adjustments and commitments, both big and small.

For me, this marks my third peak week leading to the biggest competition to date: Provincial Championships, where the top 5 in each height class move on to Nationals with a chance to earn their coveted IFBB Pro Card. Many of my fellow competitors will involve ladies who have been training and competing for many years, who qualified well over a year ago and/or have had a long time dedicated to their prep. In my case, I qualified only 6 weeks earlier at the Provincial Open placing 4th in my height class. On the plus side, seeing that I was already in peak condition at 6 weeks out meant that I wouldn’t have too much work ahead of me in terms of dieting down or trying to pack on extra mass. Ultimately this short prep was different from my first two in that I was able to maintain my physique while having shorter workouts and enjoying a higher amount of carbohydrates and still seeing great results each week.

Then there came the “problems” or “challenges”. At 3 weeks out I started a new full time job (yay!). Unfortunately my office is far from home and the gym, giving me a pretty sizeable commute each day (2 hours total). This also meant that fasted cardio would be a big challenge. Instead of getting up at my leisure each morning and taking my time before heading out for a run, I now have to get up SUPER early (usually as the sun is rising) and head out the door about 20 minutes after crawling out of bed. Even with my pre-workout supps, I still feel tired and I am definitely running at a much slower pace than usual. Then I rush back home for a couple minutes of stretching, get ready for work and run out to catch the bus. After a full work day, it’s back on public transport to the gym for some serious weightlifting. By the I get home I’ve had about a 14 hour day including my workouts and transport. Needless to say, I’m wiped! The first week was intense because that was the biggest adjustment, especially with sleep. Truth be told, my solution was to just drink more coffee, which helped in the short term, but by the end of the week I started feeling the negative side effects. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and irritability, all of which I experienced a few days into the week. Not only was I having a bit of information overload, but I was also getting way too much stimulation without any quiet downtime that I so craved. So that first weekend, I completely cut out caffeine and switched to some soothing chamomile tea instead and took some time out to listen to a few podcasts on wellness and do some quiet meditation. At 2 weeks out, I kept the caffeine intake reasonable and only having coffee pre-workout even if I started yawning midday; I definitely felt better. I started to get into a groove with my new routine, started running at my usual pace and got my energy levels back up. I also started to appreciate the early morning jogs; there’s hardly anyone out, the sun is shining and my route goes through this beautiful bike path with lots of greenery and trees. A definite positive shift in energy by week two.

Here comes the really hard part. For peak week, I’m traveling. I’ll be spending the week at a hot and sunny spot, which sounds all nice and good, but the timing is a huge problem. First of all, my flights are super early in the morning so I’ll be getting up well before the sunrise. Secondly, a plant-based contest prep diet is hard to manage while flying, options are limited so I have to be super prepared and since I’m flying international there’s no way for me to prep meals in advance. The best I can do is bring along individual packs of protein powder with some brown rice cakes, and pick up some kind of veg at the airport. Now I can’t just have any kind of salad because these always have added fats, marinades and sugars, so I’ll have to settle for the non-starchy dressing on the side type of foods. The key here is to write down everything that I eat to keep track of macros throughout the day so that I’m not missing any nutrients. Another factor is water intake. Air travel causes dehydration and bloating, which isn’t a big deal for the departure, but coming back home is a major concern (I’ll get to that shortly). Thankfully I’ll be staying in a spot with a full kitchen ad access to groceries, so sticking with my nutrition is no problem. There’s also a gym nearby, so workouts can easily be done.

You may be thinking “well, at least you’ll get to soak up some sun on the beach”…NOPE! In the 3 weeks leading up to any competition you have to avoid the sun. That’s right, I’m going to the beach but have to completely avoid all contact with the sunshine at all times. Why? Because in the sun we tan, and tan-lines cannot be covered by the spraytan on showday. No matter how hard the spraytan company may try, any difference in skin tone or color cannot be covered and evened out by the spray and I’m sure you’ll remember that my posing suit is not like a regular bikini; it’s a lot smaller and sits on the body far differently than what you see on the beach. God help you if you get sunburnt because you won’t be able to compete at all; any kind of skin irritation or redness will only be accentuated by the spraytan. So I’ll be walking around in massive heat, completely covered from head to toe with a big giant hat at all times, even if I go into the ocean. Oh, and did I mention that three days into the trip I have to stop wearing deodorant? The chemicals in deodorant turn the spraytan green and nobody wants to see moldy looking armpits.

The flight home is a whole other animal altogether. Once again, I leave early in the morning, but it also happens to fall on the day that I start my carb load and water manipulation. I’m going to be running the risk of bloating due to air travel (a big no-no). Plus in a carb load we cut all vegetables and fats, so I’ll be pretty limited to what I can eat. Again, writing everything that I eat and drink down will be the key to staying on track. Worse case scenario it’ll all protein powder and rice cakes until I get home and then I’ll eat the standard tempeh, sweet potatoes and white rice. When I do finally make it home I have to do a full workout and pre-contest beauty prep (hair stuff, mani-pedi, etc.) and pack for the contest weekend. Busy, busy.

Now this show is different in that registration for my class which usually takes place 1 day out at around 1pm is now going to be at 10:30 am, and it’s not close to home. So once again, I’ll have to get up super early for a light workout, skin prep and probably get stuck in traffic on my way there. Thankfully I will be staying at the host hotel so I’ll be able to drop my stuff and have a few hours to kill before the athlete’s meeting and my spraytan. I will be taking the opportunity to go to the hair salon and enjoy a little bit of pampering and then hopefully have enough time for an afternoon nap in my room.

The game plan for showday is nothing different (hair, makeup in the morning followed by pre-judging), but…finals is way later in the night. Usually finals would start around 1pm, this time though it starts at 6pm, so there will be at least a 5 hour gap in between. So I caved and reserved my hotel room for an extra night (since check out is at 3pm)  that way I can take a nap in between, which I’m sure I’ll need and I can stay over night if the show finishes late, which for sure it will. Finals usually lasts about 4 hours, so we won’t be out of there before 10pm. It’s an added expense, but a necessary one.

It’s gonna be an exhausting week and if you haven’t already figured out by now, I’m felling fairly stressed out over this. Stressed over the travels, stressed over the timing and planning, and stressed over how tired I know I will feel throughout the entire week. I am, however, trying to focus on the bright side. If while away I feel tired, I will sleep and if I feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, I’ll take some quiet time away from everyone to get centered again. This may not the ideal time to travel, but I know I’ll still enjoy myself even if I’m not the norm and am pretty unconventional. This trip will still give me the chance to spend some quality time with my family, maybe take an evening stroll on the beach with my husband and hopefully move at a slower pace than usual. It’ll give me the chance to slow down and get some relaxation time in while connecting with loved ones Like everything else, the key to success is to work around what you already have in place and tailor your approach to that. In my case, maintaining a positive mindset throughout, by focusing on gratitude and the progress of this particular journey to the stage, is what will ultimately allow this to remain a positive learning and growing experience.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

Contest Prep, Nutrition, Wellness

Eating Enough

There is one concept that seems to evade so many people. In fact, it is most likely one of the main reasons why so many struggle to get in shape, lose weight and keep it off for good. What is this mystery concept you ask? Eating enough. That’s right, for most eating enough and losing weight just don’t mix, which is why we still believe that diet equates calorie restriction and deficit.

The old theory of calories in, calories out isn’t as clear cut as you may think. Actually calculating how many calories you burn in a day is almost impossible, even if you have wearable tech (for example a Fitbit) because it doesn’t take into account your resting metabolic rate, stress levels, hormone fluctuations, etc. So trying to figure out the right amount of calories to take in is equally as challenging. Some say 1500 calories for others it’s 1200 and so on. It’s pretty confusing. Truth be told, there is no one size fits all for calories, but if you are looking to lose weight or if you have ever tries to in the past, chances are you’re not eating enough. You still have to support your body’s basic requirements to function and if you drop calories too low your body is going to tell your brain that it is starving and it will hold on to whatever bodyfat it can no matter how hard you workout or how low you drop your carb intake.

The reactions that I get when it comes to my regiment and my nutrition is usually surprise followed by slight disbelief and “Yeah, right” look in the other persons eyes. Others are always surprised to hear that I eat 6 to 7 meals each day and with that surprise assume that it’s a tiny miny portioned sized “meal”, which could not be further from the truth. I even get asked “Yeah, but how many of those so called meals are just protein shakes mixed with water?”. The answer is zero FYI. Yes, I do consume protein powder, but it’s always paired with additional food otherwise it wouldn’t be filling enough. I eat for volume and I like to feel full no matter where I’m at in my training.

To help shed a little light on this, here is what a typical day of eating looks like at 4 weeks away from the Provincial Championship.

Meal 1

 

A combo of carbs and protein is perfect for my post-fasted cardio meal. I opt for 1/4c dry measure of a whole grain with a 30g scoop of brown rice protein powder and 1/4c of blueberries. Anytime I go for something sweet I always spice it up with cinnamon and a pinch of turmeric (it’s an anti-inflammatory). My 2 fave ways to prep this meal is to combine the ingredients to make either a Brown Rice Bowl (as shown on left) or a Mug Cake (on the right). Delish!

Meal 2

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For this meal I always go for 4 oz of either tofu or tempeh with 1 cup of veg…and everything is smothered in mustard and hot sauce.

Meal 3

This serves as my pre-weight training meal which I’ll have about an hour before hitting the gym with a giant cup of coffee instead of a pre-workout supplement. This meal is sweet and combines 1 scoop of brown rice protein powder with 3 oz of mashed sweet potatoes with (again) cinnamon and turmeric. It’s kind of like a protein pudding with some extra carbs to fuel me up for some heavy lifting.

Meal 4

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My post-workout meal is eaten 45 minutes after my gym session is done. I always opt for white rice (which I love!) and 3 oz of this high protein bread (recipe courtesy of my coach) made from wheat gluten. It is so nice to eat bread every day when in contest prep. You may have noticed that most post-workout meals contain fast digesting carbs (like white rice). The reason for that is because whenever you exercise your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone), but this is a good thing as it is what allows you to push hard when you train. After you’re done, the sugars in carbohydrates are what help bring your cortisol levels back down to a stable amount.

Meal 5

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This one is probably my favorite. 1/2c black beans, 2 cups of sautéed spinach with hot sauce and 1 TB coconut oil is a great combo. The great thing is that on Mondays and Fridays (when I train legs) I get to up my carbs for this meal and add 3 oz of sweet potatoes, since I’m lifting heavier. The bigger the muscle, the heavier you can lift, the more recovery fuel (i.e. food) your body needs. So twice a week I like to mix things up a bit and use my ingredients to make brownies!

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Meal 6

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This is a quazi-oatmeal type of meal. Since I want to keep protein high at my last meal of the day, instead of using actual oats I use what’s called texturized vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is great because it’s a blank canvas and it takes on whatever flavours you add to it. Obviously I want this to be sweet so I go for 1/4c dry measure, with shredded zucchini (for volume), 2 TB of powdered peanut butter and 1/2 tsp of stevia. Surprisingly good.

Even though I’m less than 1 month away from show day, I still get to enjoy a once weekly refeed meal. Let me be clear though, a refeed meal is not a cheat meal. A refeed is like a carb load where you eat high carb, moderate protein and the least amount of fat possible (no fats are added to this meal). If I want something savory I’ll go for pasta, but I make the sauce myself so that there’s no oil added to it. usually though, I prefer sweet and I recently created and devoured this cereal treat. I found a brown rice cereal and vegan marshmallows (made from cassava instead of gelatin). It was SUPER amazing!

So there you have it. As you can see I don’t “eat like a bird” and neither should you. Food is fuel so nourish yourself and eat to live. Give yourself the energy you need by eating enough each day, regardless of your goals. Don’t worry about the calories, because chances are, you’re probably not eating enough as is. Focus on quality ingredients and balanced meals to support you, your workouts and your health.

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

Wellness

Recovery Week

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Competing in any sport is rough. The training process, the nutrition and meal prep, not to mention the constant build up to the big day is enough to take a toll on even the most elite athletes. That’s why having a designated and scheduled recovery time is an absolute must for everyone, and I’m not just talking about one rest day away from the gym, what I’m talking about is some serious downtime for some real R&R.

Taking time out from exercising is a must for anyone who workouts consistently and who trains hard. You can lift as heavy as possible and be super on point with your nutrition all you want, but if you don’t take legitimate time off, you are guaranteed to not only plateau and over train, but to burn out completely. Working out is only part of the puzzle, everything that you do outside of your gym time will dictate your progress, your health and your wellbeing. You can’t build muscle if you’re exhausted, you can’t lose body fat if you’re physically over worked, just like ou can’t out-train a bad diet. It’s all three pieces of training hard, eating clean (and enough!) and restful sleep and recovery, that allow you to grow, to get stronger, to get lean and stay that way.

Last year when I competed for the first time, I only lasted 2 days away from the gym and these weren’t even real rest days, they were more like active recovery days instead where I would go for a nice hike or light jog outside. This time was completely different. I knew in advance that regardless of how I placed and whether or not I would qualify for the Provincial Championships, that I would take time away from the weight room. After all, at that point it had been well over a year since I had taken more than one day off from working out in the same week…needless to say, I was due.

So that’s exactly what I did; three full days off followed by a couple of days of light jogging outside for no more than 20 minutes and zero weight training. This may sound strange, but it was a challenge for me to stay away from the gym. Think about it: when you spend months on end where everyday has several hours dedicated to working out and then you completely eliminate it altogether, it’s bound to leave you wondering about what you’ll do with all that extra time. It was certainly nice to sleep in a bit longer and not have to run for the bus on my way to the gym, but it was also really nice to start jogging again after three days. I felt productive again.

What was not so awesome about my rest days was how I felt physically and emotionally to be honest. The day after the competition I woke up feeling a bit sore and stiff; posing in heels on stage coupled with stress and dehydration will do that to a person. The worst part though was that I was super bloated, my belly was pushed out and I felt heavy and soft. It is normal to get some bloating after dehydrating for show day and then rehydrating after, but this was way worse than I could have ever imagined. I also got the worst heartburn every single time that I would eat. It was awful. I felt full all the time, but I also wanted to eat everything in sight, no good. On the emotional side, well let’s just say that the post contest blues hit me hard this time. I was disappointed that I didn’t place in the top 3, but I also knew that the judges had their reasons and the top three ladies absolutely deserved to win without question. My disappointment lied within myself; maybe I could have lifted heavier or practiced posing more or gotten more rest during my prep. I felt like I could have done more and that I was in control of how well I placed, so my not winning was a reflection of my lack of effort somewhere along the line. It may not be true, but I couldn’t help but feel and think that way; I didn’t win and I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t do enough or work hard enough. Ultimately though it was all said and done and the show was over. On the bright getting the great piece of news that I and placed 4th and did qualify for the Provincial Championships definitely perked me up!

So now I am back on prep and getting ready for the big competition in just 6 weeks from now. The good news is since I’m starting this prep already pretty shredded I get to enjoy a bit more carbs (for now) and less interval training with my cardio. So that’s nice, but we’ll see how long it lasts! This next show will be with people who are the best in my Province and possibly the country; the top 5 move on to nationals! This one will no doubt be my biggest challenge yet.

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

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