Milestone Monday: Small Changes, Big Results

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Monday was chest and triceps. After I warmed up on the treadmill I staked my claim to a bench in the weight section. My first exercises were chest press and dumbbell triceps extension.

I looked in the mirror as I counted my sixty second rest between sets. For the first time in a long time, I liked what I saw in the mirror. I looked like belonged in that section. I looked like I knew what I was doing (because I did). I looked as good on the outside as I felt on the inside. I looked as fit as I felt.

Part of it was wearing a tank top. I haven’t worn a tank top yet this year. I could see my arms work as I hoisted the dumbbell over my head. I could see muscles working. I could see muscles, all the work I’ve put in over the winter and revealed with clean eating. I couldn’t see that before with my baggy, frumpy this-was-all-I-had-clean t-shirts. I associate confidence with showing off your body. Not in a suggestive way–just baring your arms when you have previously described them as skirt steaks tacked to your shoulders.

Part of it was working my shoulders. They are the good kids of my body. Oh you want us to tone? Okay. Oh you want us to gain? Okay. Overnight results with huge smiles on their faces. They give such a definition to your line. They give you an arm.

Part of it is all the shifting I’ve been doing, really becoming aware of the stories I tell myself and what I make them mean. I’ve really become aware of my self perception.

I felt so free, so empowered. It was such a gift and blessing to like what I saw. I was so excited and so high for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening. I also had an outstanding workout, lifting heavy, pushing myself and running.

To be honest, as excited as I was writing this now feels a little sad to admit I’ve had challenges with my self perception and it has been a long time since I liked what I saw. I could tell I was making progress. It felt slow compared to all the work I was doing. But again small shifts made big changes: I ate very clean and really became aware of my mind. If you change a filter you see things in different light.

I’m by no means looking for compliments;please don’t hear or read that. It was such a cool, bright energy and feeling I wanted to share the experience.

I’m also going to buy many more tank tops in bright colors 🙂

Best!

 

 

3 Fitness Models I Follow on YouTube

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I’ve been watching a couple of different fitness models on YouTube. I started watching them because I wanted to know what it took to become a fitness model. I wanted to see what fitness was like at that level. I also wanted more motivation, inspiration, and all around fun, positive people in my life.

Many of them take you through their days, show you how they workout and what they eat. They’re fun to watch because they’re fun girls who have worked incredibly hard to achieve a level of fitness they wanted. I really appreciate how honest and vulnerable they are on the videos. They also share what the turning point where they committed to fitness.

On a personal level they helped me face some judgements and grow. When I first started watching the videos, to be honest I said, “You’re hot of course you’re getting sponsored.” I’d look like that if I was paid to or was sponsored. I made it a me vs. them thing. The judgements were uncalled for. I didn’t know these women personally. I learned through the videos they worked to get where they are. They looked like that before they got sponsored. I also learned the type of girl I used to scoff at can actually be really nice, bright, and genuine.

Three of my favorites are:

Heidi Somers aka Buff Bunny: My trainer recommended her to me. I immediately bristled when I saw the long blonde hair and small waist. The judgement dissolved when I watched a couple of her videos. I really enjoy her personality and energy. Heidi is very bright, very funny, and very committed to fitness. I really respected her when I learned she was premed and assisted in surgeries until she realized she was more interested in nutrition and fitness.

She’s my favorite. I love spending time with her on YouTube and Instagram.

Nikki Blackketter: I found Nikki through Pinterest actually. Someone pinned her and said how much they like her and her videos so I found her and her videos. I like the intensity she brings to her workouts. I do many of the same moves and reps. she’s shaking after some workouts.

She also did a series of videos about her breakup and how working out helped her through it. They really resonated with me–even hot chicks go through break ups.

Jen Heward aka Hunny Buns: I discovered Jen through Buff Bunny. They did a couple of photo shoots and videos together. She has some great workout ideas and cardio alternatives.

Is there anyone you follow for motivation or inspiration? Let me know.

Best!

Zumba vs. Rehearsal

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I’ve wanted to try Zumba for several years. I used to dance and it just looks like a lot of fun.

“Did you hear we’re getting Zumba?” my trainer asked. No! It’s free with our membership. The first class was next Thursday. How exciting! I signed up. If you signed up, you have to show up. I’m sure it’s to see how much interest there is and whether or not they’ll keep it.

Well I’m also in a storytelling show, Everything That Rises, that goes up in May. I’m excited about it. The theme is Judgement and I love my story. The director emailed me and said my first rehearsal is Thursday.

So…career or fun? I was leaning more towards “fun” because I need to get gas, drive the 90 minutes to Chicago and find parking where there is no parking. None.

And I miss the first Zumba class. It sounds like the lamest excuse ever but I was excited about it. I also signed up and now I’m not showing up so I’m afraid they won’t hold it again. They’ll hold it again there were several names on the list.

It’s a great conflict to have. Options on a weekday, both empowering, fun, and heading towards greater goals.

Of course I’m going to rehearsal and it will be inspiring and fun. There will always be Zumba.

Being Sick Doesn’t Have to Suck.

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I got home from work on Tuesday and I slept. Friends were saying they were sick. Work had a meeting about people getting sick. I thought the discussion of all the reported symptoms was psychosomatic; because I heard everyone’s throat hurt and felt queasy, I thought that’s why I felt sore and queasy. Nope. Got home and had a fever. I was hot. I was freezing. I went to bed.

For the rest of the week I woke up feeling worse. It was like a traffic jam in my throat complete with idling motors and smog. Once I got moving I felt fine. The adrenaline of the day took over.

I continued to work out, especially hard on Friday because I had energy. Woke up Saturday and everything I had been fighting hit and added sinuses. Delightful.

Since I couldn’t breath I opted not to workout. It’s frustrating being sidelined by sickness. I used to bull through things. I respect people who bull through things. I immediately made it mean I was weak and not dedicated.

I decided to make it an opportunity for self care, healing and rest. I made it about listening to my body and since I don’t have to work weekends anymore I could take it easy. I’ve also noticed every time I start to level up, I get physically sick as if it’s clearing out the impurities.

So I’m using this time to rest and hydrate. I’ve used the time to practice my breathing and work on my mental game. You become really aware of your thoughts when you have to sit.

While I am disappointed I don’t get to workout, it’s turned into a pleasant weekend of other gains.

Best!

 

The Bicep Curl Scope Shift: Thoughts are Funny

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Thank you for all the kind inquiries where I was. I really appreciate it. I took the week off from blogging to rest, recuperate, and get back into the flow of my day job.

I wanted to share a story that happened a couple of weeks ago. I thought the thoughts and my reactions were interesting (well, to me at least, because it happened to me).

I was working out at the gym. It was back and biceps day. I was doing bicep curls on the row machine. You lay back on the bench and curl the bar as you would do a normal bicep curl. It sounds fun and it is fun. It’s a cool move. It also feels like you are ripping your bicep from the bone.

I was already physically and emotionally tired. Finishing the third set I was pretty sure I could feel the threads of my bicep threatening to leave the bone. I sat up and thought, “Why am I doing this?” and the question didn’t stem from something substantial like evaluating my goals. My thoughts fascinated me.

I thought about how my best friend recently became engaged. Two other friends got engaged. Another friend got in a relationship. Why am I doing this? A majority of the women I know who are married or in relationships do not work out or watch what they eat. I am incredibly happy for them, do not get me wrong, but in my moment of weakness my thoughts were why am I doing this when they didn’t? Why am I stressing over eating a gram of protein per pound of body weight when a friend ignores her doctor instructed dietary needs and gets engaged?

When I studied for LSATS, I learned about scope shifts. It’s where you start off an argument or idea but end somewhere else, making sense but the listener can’t quite see the segue. It’s like a tangent with a strategic purpose. I love my scope shifts. They’re quite entertaining now, but I love word games.

The thoughts just came up and I was to observe them. I was tired and frustrated. Almost like energy bursts, little last ditch efforts.

“You enjoy doing this.” I replied. “This is your you time. This is your body’s playtime. You’re doing this for your health, that should be on the list.”

“Your trainer has a boyfriend. Heidi Somers (Buff Bunny) has a boyfriend. Amanda Latona met her husband working out. Your relationship status has nothing to do with whether or not you eat clean or workout. It does showcase your values and finding compatible values changes your relationship status.”

“And this has nothing to do with your fourth set…” So I finished my set.

I just thought it was interesting how thoughts pop up and we have to calm ourselves like children.

All the best!

 

What I Learned from the 250k Transformation Challenge

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I participated in bodybuilding.com’s 12 week 250k Transformation Challenge. The goal of the challenge was to commit to your diet and fitness to create your best body in 12 weeks (that’s how I interpreted it at least). There was a monetary prize at the end (hence the 250k) but I was more motivated by the transformation. I’m far from where I’d like to be as this challenge comes to a close, but I did learn a few things.

Aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I used to be very good at making my weaknesses stronger. Whether it was in dance or working with horses, I knew where I’d falter so I’d be proactive and prepare for that situation.

Listening to my trainer is one of my strengths. I do what she tells me to do. I show up to the gym and workout. I lift heavy and perform HIIT 3-4 times a week.

My clean eating is an area I can tighten up. I enjoy it. I love veggies. I didn’t know I could like chicken this much. Didn’t know I’d be okay having eggs every single morning. A treat once a week is okay, but little cheats add up (sugar on oatmeal, a couple of jelly beans). I am a lot more aware of what I eat, when and why. Going to look at adding more variety to the line up.

Celebrate little wins. Little wins build bigger wins. I’ve always been a night person but I do try to sleep. There have been a couple of nights when I haven’t slept at all. When I’m genuinely hungry, I’ll make a midnight (or 3 am) snack. I’ve identified I want a crunch. The tortilla chips would be easy, quick, and convenient. They’d also be empty and I’d feel guilty in the morning, knowing I could have made a better choice. Asparagus and hummus has been a better choice. Peanut butter instead of the cookie when I want something small and sweet (not the greatest, but neither is being up all night).

It is a journey. I used to use “journey” for better word choice, but it’s sunk in at a different level. After 12 weeks I’m not where I’d like to be, but it’s pretty good. I stayed aware, kept recommitting and turned a corner. My body suddenly snapped together. I’ve never been this far on the journey, this close to the destination before, truly falling in love with the process.

It’s also been a milestone in my relationship to my body. I’m very competitive. I used to be a perfectionist and very cruel to myself. Nothing was ever good enough. I remind myself constantly what a privilege it is to be able to move, to move this well, to have the opportunity to let my body play and feed it well. For one of the first times in my life, I was constantly kind and supportive of my body. I think that’s why I turned the corner and saw new results.

The transformation isn’t over. It’s just a marker on the map.

Sprinting Outside

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I’ve added running outside to my regular fitness regime to train for a 5K. I’ve really been enjoying it– the nature, the different feel to the run, the different style of moving meditation.

I’m conditioning myself right now so I’m focusing on distance and getting used to running outside. I sprint during my HIIT routine which I do on the treadmill. My trainer said I could try HIIT outside since I’m enjoying outside. I wouldn’t time it as much as focus on feel and distance. I told her I’d keep the sprinting inside on my safe, even surfaced treadmill.

The other day I was on the homestretch of my run. I saw my house. My mailbox was just a couple of hundred feet ahead of me. Something said, “Sprint. Just try it.”

I’m not a sprinter. I’ve never identified as a sprinter. I’ve never identified as fast which is one of the reasons I didn’t like running growing up. Whether it was in PE or soccer, I didn’t like being one of the last ones. In soccer if you had the ball I’d chase you down and get the ball. I’ve come to enjoy sprinting because of my HIIT routine. I have been pushing myself, getting the speed faster than I feel safe, but still there’s a wisp of caution.

I focused ahead. Just focus on the mailbox. I felt the mechanics of the sprint in a different way than I have on the treadmill. It felt more powerful outdoors. I felt this power emerging from me, like my body shifting gears or unleashing. I was much more aware of my arms working, coming forward, elbowing back. Felt my hands grab the air. I got faster quicker.

I got to my fastest state of moving quicker outside on the gravel brink of a rain ditch than on my even surfaced treadmill, jabbing a numerical speed. I was faster than I thought I was. I was more powerful than I thought I was.

No wonder so many writers enjoying running. It’s lessons are a metaphor for so many things.

The Joy of Running Outside

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I told my trainer I wanted to train for a 5k again. I trained in the fall but wasn’t able to run the 5k I signed up for. Running is hard when you have pneumonia. She was excited because she’s also training for a 5k.

I asked her advice because I did the Couch to 5k training plan last time where you alternate walking and running until you’re able to run for half an hour. I’m now running 30 to 40 minutes nonstop three to four times a week.

She suggested running outside. There would be different elements, like the elements, ground would be different. She told me to start with a mile, even if I felt I could do more, just do a mile first. Every week I’m going to add distance until I’m running a 5k outside. I’ll still be doing my HIIT on the treadmill.

So Sunday I went outside. I live in the country with country roads which sounds peaceful and tranquil. Usually it is unless there are cars, trucks, or semis that think there’s no speed limit. There’s gravel on either side of the road and steep drop off to the rain ditches. I was excited to get started on uneven ground. Sand would be nothing.

It was amazing. Part of the bliss stemmed from having fallen in love with running. I love the physical state of running, the moving meditation. I also love being outside, surrounded by nature and fresh air. We have no wind blocks so wind can get vicious. It cross cut me, but it was refreshing.

On the treadmill my feet plod a hollow thump on the track. I loved the softer whisper of the stones moving.

I expected passing vehicles to honk and dramatically swing into the other lane. While I appreciate the wide birth, it also annoys me. I’m already balancing on the 45 degree incline. I’m several feet from the road. If I fall I’m not suddenly going to vault 7 feet to my right into traffic. Several swung wide, but nobody honked. Nobody felt hostile which I appreciated.

I think it also helped I looked like a runner. I was in a sweatshirt, sweatpants and running on the side of the road, not marching the 20 minute walk into town to the gas station because my car ran out of gas.

I’ve run a couple of times outside now and it’s been really nice. I feel like a runner. I run inside and outside. I do different routines. I have an endurance program and a HIIT program. My stress relief and moving meditation can take place outside of the gym, which is a very freeing feeling.

 

Working with Mr. Smith (Machine)

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The first time I tackled the Smith Machine I wanted to take a picture of it for Instagram with the tagline, “Hello, Mr. Smith. I will be working with you today.” I didn’t. The Smith Machine is similar to a squat rack except the bar slide on a track. You have a constant spotter and can’t squish yourself with the bar. You can quickly re-rack the weight with a flick of your wrists.

Two things led me to try the Smith Machine. First, I read a cool leg routine in a magazine that used the Smith Machine. Second, I saw a cool leg routine by bikini pro Nikki Blackketter that used the Smith Machine that I wanted to try. If it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me.

Up until then I had been using the Smith Machine for negative rows and level push ups. The first question I asked my trainer was which way do I face if I’m doing leg work? It felt like I could stand either direction, but I didn’t want to be that person standing the wrong way and acting like they knew what they were doing.

I like the Smith Machine because I can use a heavier weight and get a greater range of motion. I like the security of having the bar on a track so I can do lunges with heavier weight. I know the bar isn’t going to tip, I’m not going to tip, and I can abandon ship easier if there’s a problem (there hasn’t been one). I can do more than just squat as I do in the squat racks.

As much as I like the security and stability of the non-moving bar, it takes a little getting used to. I find I have to arrange my feet a little in front of me, which I’m not a huge fan of, but can get over.

And people don’t take the weight off the Smith Machine when they’re done so I don’t know if someone’s just getting a drink and they’ll be back or they’re just being jerks. Just because it’s a little easier doesn’t mean we forget common courtesy.

Confronting Cravings

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We’ve all had those distracting pangs. You want something. There is a void in your soul, you’re certain a snack that you do not have will find that void and you’ll arrive in nirvana.

I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying cravings, slowing down and deciphering whether I’m actually hungry or just stressed and wanting to feel better. The next step has been qualifying the food. Do I really want that or does it just sound good?

I’ve learned the hard way nothing has tasted as good as I think it should. The tortilla chips that have sounded so good for the last two weeks leave me as empty as their calories. That’s dramatic, but also accurate for me. A couple of times I’ve allowed myself to try something that isn’t on my clean eating plan but sounds good and it hasn’t been worth it.

Popcorn has been worth it to the point it has now become a problem. Mexican food has been worth it until the day after then the bloated bumper pad around my body has me questioning why I did it.

Overall I’ve found it more rewarding to stick to my clean eating, reminding myself how I have felt disappointed by the other snacks and how my body feels when I deviate from clean eating. It’s amazing how different it feels when I deviate: sluggish, sick, crashes. When you sugar the tank, the car doesn’t get very far.

You can tell I indulge still, but it’s mindful and nowhere near as often as I used to.