The Goals Post (long & deep)

Sorry about the pervy title. I wrote it, considered deleting it, but decided that a few mistakes should be broadcast. [For example, this weekend the boy and I were out with some friends and I sent him a secret text message across the table that said: “You’re handsome.” He (drunkenly) wrote back: “You lie. But, I want to kick your vagina.” I had to show it to the whole table.]

The time has finally come for me to share my goals with you! It’s been a bit of a process for me, with yucky cold and a super busy semester stuck somewhere in between. That being said, I think I’ve finally settled on some things that I want to achieve (slash) that are reasonably achievable.

So, here’s the story. During the first month of NROLFW, I basically decided to do everything by the book. I did all the workouts, 3x a week, and I added in a day of cardio here and there, and continued with my regular yoga practice. I tuned my diet up big time, basically eliminating refined carbs and limiting my carbs throughout the day to about 100-130 (net). I was eating at a ratio of about 35-40/30/35-40 (Pro/Carbs/Fat).

The results? It goes without saying that I noticed considerable strength increases. To show a few of my more notable increases:

  • Squats –  95 lbs –> 110 lbs
  • Seated Row – 55 lbs –> 70 lbs
  • Step ups – 17.5 lbs (each hand) –> 27.5 lbs (each hand)
  • Deadlifts – 50 lbs –> 100 lbs
  • Shoulder Press – 15 lbs –> 22.5 lbs
  • Lat Pulldown – 50 lbs –>70 lbs
  • Lunges – 20 lbs –>27.5 lbs (each hand)

In terms of my body, that is a little more difficult to assess. I certainly FEEL stronger. I certainly LOOK stronger. I can see a lot more muscle and definition than I ever have before. In terms of weight I couldn’t tell you what happened as I don’t keep track of my weight (personal decision, based on the fact that I am not pursuing weight-related goals). What I can say, however, is that during the first month, the boy said to me several times that I looked like I was losing weight. I would have to agree. My clothes felt looser and my body felt tighter.

However, after about 6 weeks, things seemed to stabilize and I went back to feeling ‘just’ normal. I was feeling frustrated that I was sticking to the “plan” but not seeing any increased results (I suppose they would call that a plateau?). In addition, I was starting to feel tired of tracking, and was really starting to experience food cravings (namely carbs, which I had greatly restricted compared to my regular way of eating), but also odd things (that I really don’t ever crave) like beer and wine. Basically, it felt like my body was saying: NO MORE! ME WANT PLEASURE FOOD! (said in the voice of the Cookie Monster – Oh wait… Sesame Street reference #FAIL)

Cookie_Monster.jpg

So, by the time I got sick I was feeling really blasé about my diet and basically just ate what my body was craving. That period of sickness was really interesting for me, because it made me realize a few things. (As did subsequent email conversations with Joob – thanks girl: ):::

Namely, that my number one priority is my personal happiness.

So then, what makes me happy? In no particular order (also, this is *obviously* not an exhaustive list, just things related to fitness/health goals) :

  • Being active.
  • Feeling comfortable in my skin/feeling that I look good.
  • Spending time with friends and family.
  • Eating good food. ….OK, I have to admit it. I am a foodie. I love cooking, I love eating, I love looking at food.
  • Enjoying drinks (like local winter ale and a nice pinot noir) and fancy desserts (like almond-pear tarts and fair trade brownies) on occasion.
  • Living my life in a way that does not revolve around food/exercise.

Basically, I realized that a few things I was doing were not in sync with the things on this list.

I’ve come to recognize that I love exercise, and yeah, I really love lifting. That doesn’t mean that I love it every day, but 90% of the time I really enjoy the time I spent at the gym. I definitely want to continue with my lifting.

I’ve come to realize that a strict eating plan is not for me… at least not right now. I’m at a healthy weight for my height (about 123 lbs at 5’5.25″ – yes, that last quarter inch counts!) so weight loss is not a concern. While I generally do eat quite healthily (my diet is primarily made up of whole foods), I do enjoy home-baked bread, lemon-flavoured mediterranean-style yogurt, real pasta, and not eating a cup of egg whites every day.

That realization came hand-in-hand with the realization (or rather, acknowledgment) that it is difficult to “bulk” (build muscle) and “cut” at the same time. I was initially interested in really “leaning out” for the summer and finally having a taut stomach, but what I now know is that most people don’t consistently stay “lean”, rather they do it in preparation for a show or event over a very controlled number of weeks (see again: Joob).

Based on those two realizations (and also remembering the fact that I am not training to compete, or any reason to lean out aside from my own vanity, actually), I decided that I will not be trying to lean out, at least not at this moment. I think the previous points pretty much explain that.

So, that all being said, here are my actual GOALS:

General goals:

  • Live in a way that is balanced: happy and healthy.
  • Eat healthy foods that support my fitness activities without feeling deprived.
  • Continue my regular workouts with NROLFW. Consistently increase strength.

Specific Goals – some are more far off than others:

  • Squat my body weight by the end of NROL.
  • Deadlift my body weight by the end of NROL.
  • Do 40 pushups without any breaks by the end of NROL.
  • Get bikini-ready (not sure what this will entail, basically just tuning up my diet and probably upping my exercise) in preparation for EUROPE in June.

Eur -what? HELL YEAH, I’m going to Europe 🙂

I’m being flown to Sweden by the European Union to participate in their Regional Development Conference and a guided tour of the Swedish countryside for a week (completely paid for….my jaw dropped). Then, I head down south to present my MA research (old news, now!) at a conference in Madrid. Following that, I plan to do a bit of sightseeing around Spain (Barcelona, etc.) and then plan to explore the south of France a little on my own (Marseilles, Monaco, wine country, etc.).

Europe abroad

And so there you have it. A post about goals that is long (sorry about that), deep (had to give you the background), and honest (maybe you didn’t need the detail about the boy wanting to “kick” my vagina, but it was too funny not to share with you all). Now I’m going to go home to eat some grass-fed steaks (from my auntie who has a small hobby farm), roasted taters, and healthified caesar salad. Oh, and I may throw a nice glass of wine in there, too 😉

PS. Zoe wrote an amazing post on “being healthy”/defining “healthy” this week. I highly suggest you check it out.

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Day 45: big itemized update

Hi guys! I’m back! ….Kind of!

I have soo many things to update on, so I will try to be brief! For your reading ease, I’m going to itemize (oh yes):

Illness Sucks
First off, sorry for the super long delay in posting and my lack of comments on all of your blogs. As I mentioned in my last post (where I reviewed The Great Fitness Experiment), I’ve been sick. I figured it was just a little cold and would take only a few days to heal, but boy, was I wrong. It really, really wiped me out for over a week. I was completely exhausted, sniffling, sore mess. I missed classes and skipped out on some social events, and obviously, did not do my regular workouts. Honestly, this illness kind of came at a bad time – I had only ONE regular workout left in Stage 1! Ridiculous! Needless to say, I’ve really missed the gym 😦

Work Trip
My absence can also be partly explained by a little work trip I had to take. I went away for a couple of days for a meeting related to my research assistantship job to this place:

golf.gif

The boy has family in the town where I had my meeting, so we stayed with them in their gorgeous, ocean-view home, which was decked out as it used to be a B&B. Needless to say, it was a welcome mini-break and outside of the research work I was doing, I took a vacation from my homework as well.

Workouts
So….On the exercise front, I must admit I’m feeling a bit deflated. A few days ago I was starting to feel a bit better so the boy and I spent a night at the pool, which was nice. I was feeling a lot better yesterday, and so was quite hopeful about getting in that last regular stage 1 workout…..

IT DID NOT GO WELL. I felt OK to begin with – just a little weak – but OK. I reduced my weight a little bit on the squats because they did not feel strong, and only did 30˚ pushups, which was OK. I was starting to feel weak and shaky during the step ups and jackknife – and then I got hit with nausea and basically cut the last two exercises short. Brutal, but I honestly thought I was going to toss if I did one more move. 😦

Here’s what I did:

Straight Sets

Squats – 2 sets of 8 @ 110 lbs, 1 set of 8 @ 105 lbs

Push ups – 3 sets of 10 @ 30˚
Seated Row – 3 sets of 8 @ 70 lbs

Step Ups – 2 sets of 6 @ 25 lbs
Prone Jackknife –  2 sets of 12

Progress
So, the final regular workout of stage 1 was a bit of a flop. Unfortunate, but I’m glad to have at least finished the majority of it. For those who are not familiar with the program, there are also 2 “special” workouts at the end of Stage 1, which basically ask you to do all of the exercises with your ORIGINAL weight, for as many reps as possible. This is to show you how much you’ve progressed since the beginning. Then, you’re supposed to take a week off before starting Stage 2.

Because I took a week off during my sickness, I have decided NOT to do the special workouts, mainly because my progress has stalled and possibly declined as a result of my illness, and so my “progress” won’t truly be captured by the As-Many-Reps-As-Possible (AMRAP) format. Plus, I’m just tired of Stage 1 and am ready to move on. So I’ll be moving right along to Stage 2. I’m still not sure if I’m 100% ready to be fully back into my heavy lifting routine, so I am going to go to the gym and see how it feels.

Other (*ahem*) Issues
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m taking some time to assess my goals. I think I’ve figured a few things out and will be posting on them shortly. A lot of thinking along with my sickness has caused me to re-assess a few things, namely around my physical and mental well-being.

Aside from my cold, there’s something else going on physiologically: I missed my period this month (and/or) am almost 10 days late. Before you get super excited (or scared), NO I’m not pregnant. Or at least as far as I (and the pregnancy test I took) can tell. So something else has thrown me off.

My period was due BEFORE I got sick so it wasn’t the illness. I haven’t gone through any new or significant stress over the past month, so that can’t explain it. The only things I have narrowed it down to are (a) exercise (although I feel this is unlikely, since I did lift weights and exercised very regularly before) and (b) diet (this is what my gut is telling me, as it is what has changed most significantly this month). Or I am pregnant and the test was wrong 😉 Also, I should mention that my body fat is no where near the lower limit, so it’s not a case of low body fat. Any thoughts you might have on WHY this might be happening would be GREATLY appreciated!

Fun Link
Did you guys hear about the sweet little ten-year-old Canadian girl who caught Lady Gaga’s attention performing Born This Way? She’s performing with Lady Gaga at her concert tonight. Can’t say I’m a huuuuge fan of Gaga, but this girl is pretty darn cute (this last link may have caused me to shed a tear).

Alrighty…that’s all for now. Sorry for information overload….:/

MISS YOU ALL!

 

 

Day 35: conceding defeat

Stage 1/B8

How is everyone? Hope you all had a great weekend! We didn’t end up going showshoeing as the mountain was crazy busy on the weekend, so we’re considering going this week instead. Nevertheless, weekends (and Sunday sleepins/rest days) are the best!

Today was my last regular workout ‘B’! I would be lying if I said it was a good, or easy workout though.

I felt strong during my deadlifts. I’m fairly sure I can lift more on them, if my grip will allow. (To be continued.) However, I struggled a bit with my db presses. I just can’t seem to increase my weight/strength on this one very much. The boy said he also tends to move up very slowly with shoulder exercises, which made me feel a bit better. I suppose they are relatively small muscles compared with the other ones I’m working in this program.

My worst exercise, however, was by far my lunges. I *really* struggled with them this week. There was a girl working out next to me and [noticing her watching me out of the corner of her eye] I suddenly became very aware of my form. And it was sad. I realized that about half way through each set, my form goes to sh*t. These weights are *really* heavy for me. Coming up out of the lunges I was dragging my front foot on the ground. My back leg was wobbly. I wanted to drop the weights. Not good – for my knees, or for anything else.

I suppose this is a learning experience, right?

Notes to self (to avoid injury, humiliation, and wonky muscle growth):
A. Be conscious of form, at all times. I usually am, but I must admit I’ve been slacking on making sure my lunges are done correctly. 
B. Focus on perfecting form before increasing the weight. This sounds obvious but in the interest of increasing my weights, I think I’ve been a bit lax in ensuring my form was 100% for 100% of my sets. According to everything I’ve read, it should be that way.
C. Don’t feel pressure to increase weight every time. As many of these exercises are new to me, I should consider the fact that the learning curve is steep, and muscle growth can be slow.
D.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat; end a set early or move down in weight if form sucks. It’s not worth the risk of injury to push it when form is not good.

Here’s what I did:

Straight Sets
Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 @ 100 lbs

Alternating Sets
Standing Shoulder Dumbbell Press – 1 set of 8 @ 22.5 lbs, 2 sets of 7 @ 22.5 lbs
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown –  3 sets of 8 @ 70 lbs

Lunges – 3 sets of 8 @ 27.5 lbs (each hand)
Swiss Ball Crunches – 3 sets of 15 @ 20 lbs

Added in: Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 12 @ 35 lbs

 

On another note, I’m just about finished reading The Great Fitness Experiment. Review to come in the next couple days. As for my goals, I’ve decided to take my mid-stage “break” next week to think about it, so I’ll be writing on them then.

Have a great day!

 

Day 32: goals?

Stage 1/A7

I can’t believe I’m already 32 days into the program…

Okay, so I can. This has been hard work. But at the same time, it has gone by relatively quickly. I’ve got just two workouts left in this stage, plus the two “special” workouts, and then it’s on to Stage 2. I’m curious to assess my progress and reassess where I’m at with my goals…

Speaking of which, I’m not sure that I have any, aside from getting into rockin’ shape and having abs I can be proud of, haha. Chatting with the boy this morning, and thinking about what Joob wrote on goals last week has got me thinking that it might be good to work on some more ‘concrete’ and SMART objectives…so stay tuned for a post on that. If any of you have suggestions on goal-setting, and what some achievable and workable goals might be, please share! 🙂

That being said, I think my first goal was just to stick with a program, since I’ve been a ‘scatterbrained’ lifter in the past, just doing what I felt like. I committed to sticking to NROLFW for at least the first stage, and then to re-assess. I guess I’m doing OK in that department.

Anyway…The boy came with me to the gym again today and I had him check my form on the squats again (as it was might highest weight to date). Apparently I’m good – moving strong, and going deep.

The workout:

Straight Sets
Squats – 3 sets of 8 @ 110 lbs

Alternating Sets
Push Ups – 3 sets of 10 (instead of 8)
Seated Row – 3 sets of 8 @ 70 lbs

Step-Ups – 3 sets of 8 @ 27.5 lbs (each hand)
Prone Jackknife – 3 sets of 15 (this was the first time I felt like this was HARD!)

 

TGIF. Hope you guys have something fun planned for the weekend! We’re thinking about going snowshoeing…

side bar: girl muscles

I was browsing through some fitness magazines today in the gym (think: Self, Shape, etc.) and noticed how ridiculously thin and meagre so many of the fitness models are. Take this image from Self magazine’s “Get slim without the gym” fitness feature:

[image source]

I can’t remember where I saw it, but I read somewhere (actually I think it was in another magazine) something to the effect of: “The models that appear in these magazines are not slim because they’ve done the workouts; they’re actors who are slim because they were born that way.” Basically saying that many of the models that appear in healthy living/women’s magazines are not the products of the workouts that they represent. This is pretty standard knowledge among our media-savvy population, but easy to forget when you’re bombarded with images like this all the time.

I used to look at models like these and wish I could somehow attain that physique. Lifting has shown me that not only is it probably impossible, it’s not even really desirable. I’d rather have legs that can support me when I move [fast or slow, up or down], a lower body and core that allows me to lift things [like my zillion library books], and an upper body that will [eventually] allow me to carry a baby with ease.

Besides, how many push ups do you think this chick can even do? I’d give her 8 – at best. 😉