The one on the exhale…

asthma_inhalerPicture yourself at the gym, on a treadmill next to someone else. The person next to you doesn’t appear to be exerting that much effort but is red-faced, winded and wheezing. Most people’s first thought would be to assume that person is out of shape, maybe even lazy, especially if they happen to also be overweight. A lot of people avoid going to the gym because they assume these thoughts are rampantly playing through other people’s minds as they work out. For me, it’s why I avoid doing cardio in front of other people.

Anyone who knows I am a regular to the gym would assume that I am in shape, given that I have been a frequent gym goer for more than a third of my life. When I do cardio though, I become the dictionary definition of what so many people think of as “out of shape.” I wheeze, huff and puff and get red in the face while doing something as simple as walking on an incline or pushing the stepmill up to level 2.

Like 3 million Canadians and 15 million Americans, I am asthmatic.

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The one about acceptance…

z_2713There is a trend sweeping social media this summer…

The Instagram and Twitter hashtag, #fatkini has been gaining popularity, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to post pictures of themselves in bikinis as a way of showing acceptance for their bodies. There are some who believe that by encouraging women in this way, it is the equivalent of saying that morbid obesity is okay and that health should not be a priority.

Here’s the the thing…

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The one about the numbers…

I’ve mentioned on this blog countless times that a lot of what happens when you walk into the gym is not mental, but rather psychological. It’s all a game of numbers and how your mind interprets them.

For example, my workout this morning was triple sets (three exercises done in succession followed by a break). I do six sets of 15 reps per exercise.

You might think that the first set is the easiest and the last the hardest. After all, that would be reasonable given the physical demand on your body. It’s not really the case though. At least, not for me.

Set one: the ‘oh-this-might-actually-be-hard’ set. You feel fresh going into it but your muscles don’t really know what to expect and you quickly realize that things will not be as fun as you had originally expected.

Set two: the ‘I-can-do-this’ set. Now your muscles are warmed up after the first set and you know what to expect so the second set is often one of the easier ones. You’re getting into the swing of it now and feeling pretty strong.

Set three: the ‘this-is-getting-hard’ set, also known as the ‘am-I-really-only-half-way?’ set. Mentally, the third set is my most challenging. At this point it’s starting to get physically tasking, your muscles are getting tired and, even though you know you have to push past the discomfort, it’s damn HARD. At the same time you’re doing the mental math and realizing that after this set there’s still three more JUST LIKE IT still to come.

Set four: the ‘only-two-more-after-this’ set. The third set is out of the way and now the finish line is within view. You’re tired but you have a sudden motivation to power through and get the job done.

Set five: the ‘am-I-done-yet’ set. You used up way too much motivation on set four, now you’re just exhausted. There’s only one more set after this one though so you might as well just get it done.

Set six: the ‘is-that-all?’ set, otherwise known as the ‘I-could-do-another’ set. The sixth set often times feels very similar to the second set. The boost of adrenaline that comes with knowing that you’re almost done, coupled with the fact that you probably didn’t give it 110% in set five, comes with enough power to destroy the final set – like a boss. This set is usually accompanied by overconfidence, luring you into thinking that you could do a seventh set if you wanted to. You can’t though. Really. Just don’t try it. It’s painful.

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned from the numbers game is that we all feel really uncomfortable at times but it’s about pushing past the mental discomfort to find the spot where you start to feel like you’re in total control. In other words, don’t let set three break you because set six feels awesome.

The one about gym folk…

My favourite time to go to the gym is early in the morning. Sure, it means getting up at 4:45 a.m. but it means that by the time I go to work I’ve already got my strength training and half of my cardio for the day completed. The other reason I like to go early (I’d go earlier if the gym was open, to be honest) is because of the gym folk.

Getting to the gym that early requires a certain amount of dedication and planning. Most people need to be at work so they don’t have time to mess around in the gym. They get in, they get out and they don’t get in my way. That’s the way I like it.

Recently though, I’ve been going to the gym at odd times (for me) and I’ve encountered people that are very different from my regular early morning crew. I’ll preface by saying I know it’s not nice to judge but there’s less than 13 weeks until I (hopefully) hit the WBFF stage and I just don’t have time to waste when I get into the gym. The following types of people have found their way onto my list of pet peeves:

The Meathead : Okay, you have huge muscles. Good for you. That doesn’t mean you get to hog the mirror while you check yourself out. Also, lifting super heavy while sacrificing any semblance of form does not make you look cool … quite the opposite, in fact. The worst habit that I notice with The Meathead? They pile plates onto bars then walk away from them and leave someone else to clean up their mess. Thanks, guys.

The Barbie-Weight Aficionado : The female opposite of The Meathead. A good example would be on Saturday when a woman expressed to me that she found it frustrating that all the mirrors are in the “men’s section”. I asked what she meant and she explained that the “men’s weights” (i.e. dumbbells over 10-pounds) were all over by the mirror, while the “women’s weights” (i.e. dumbbells under 10-pounds) were not. Surely, the reason for this couldn’t be that the smaller weights are more mobile and therefore easier to carry over to the mirror/benches? Women are not restricted to the Barbie weights, ladies.

The Chatters : There are a few different types of Chatters, all of them are equally as annoying. There seems to be a trend for young people to go to the gym, sit down on some mats (in the most inconvenient spot possible), play with their phones and chat. These people also come in a middle-aged variety and will typically be found standing in front of machines or dumbbell racks catching up.

The Crowders : There’s 25-feet of available space, why do you have to be 2-feet away from me? It seems that every time I find a nice, quiet, open space and set up my stuff in it other people get jealous of my super cool area and want to be in it, too. My gym has windows that overlook the pool area and quite often people will just stand and look out the windows. Tonight I found my little area, a cozy little corner to myself, and suddenly a guy walked over, stood ON my mat (where my head had just been) so he could lean against the window and watch his kids in swimming lessons. Why you gotta be in my space, bro?

The Creeper : If any man wonders why women’s gyms exist – it’s this guy. There’s a fellow at my gym (for the sake of this story let’s call him Ben) who latches on to every woman in decent shape. Ben lurks around while you’re doing squats to give you “tips” about form, stands next to the glute kickback machine to tell you about how much he lifts, goes to great lengths to convince you to go down to the sauna with him, whines if you don’t do cardio on the machine next to him and just makes everyone feel uncomfortable. Ben once came up behind me while I was doing deadlifts and tried to rest his water bottle on my ass because he “thought it was a shelf”. I’m not laughing, Ben. You’re 15 years older than me and I wouldn’t be caught dead in the sauna with you. Go away.

I could most definitely add to this list, but these encompass my most loathed gym folk. I’m sure they’re all great people when they’re at home (except for Ben maybe…) but they’re not the most courteous when they step into the gym. I have a plan when I walk in those doors and no one is going to slow me down! (Sorry.)

The one where fatty had a birthday…

I can’t believe I forgot about the blog’s birthday! Shame on me.

New Years resolutions aren’t really my thing (I don’t feel compelled to wait for a certain date to set a goal) but in 2011 I decided that I was going to start up a blog and write about the things that interest me the most – fitness, nutrition, health, bodybuilding and my personal journey from keen observer to active participant.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since this blog started. I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my personal life and just as many changes in my “fitness life”. As far as body composition, I’m actually not too far off from where I was last year but I have learned more than I ever expected I would. I’m so much more knowledgeable about my own health, the way I eat, the things I do when I walk into the gym. I feel stronger and more empowered overall. I also made a tough decision last year to switch trainers. I left a trainer that I had been with since I was 21 years old, which wasn’t easy. I miss seeing Cathy but I have loved my experience with Krissy so far and can see sticking with her for a long time to come (so long as she’ll have me.)

Time for a little reflection…

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The one about a do-over…

I would like a Mulligan, please!

Take me back to last Monday and let me start again.

This past week I’ve experienced some very high-highs and very low-lows. I’ll get the good news out of the way first so you can all do a little mental pom-pom shake for me before I tell you how I managed to take what should have been an exciting moment and let my mind ruin it.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Wednesday was my official check-in day. It went great (could have gone better) and I was mostly happy with my results. Down 5 pounds, 5 inches and 1% body fat. That means that my little slip up two weekends ago did make an impact but it didn’t destroy everything.

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The one when week three ended…

The past three weeks have absolutely flown by. I’ve gone from the week one baby giraffe to the week three fierce lioness and I can’t believe how super pumped I am every day I wake up to be working towards such an awesome goal. In some ways I feel privileged to have such a powerful motivator in my life as being able to watch my physique change from week to week. Seeing real results makes me want to push a little bit harder every day.

I definitely am starting to see some results, too. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I hate scales. I hate how the numbers, although mostly arbitrary and not at all indicative of body composition, have a negative stigma but mostly I hate the discouraging feeling I get when I don’t see the results in the numbers that I feel. I’ve been feeling really great over the last week and knew I wanted to take my body fat percentage before I have my “official” check-in next week and that meant hopping on the scale.

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The one with the first week finish…

I’m hungry and it’s awesome.

Most people would be pretty disappointed to be hungry but I find it to be supremely satisfying. Why? Because it’s a sign that my metabolism is starting to chug along again.

I’m coming up on two weeks on my new-and-improved competition diet and I think my body is finally starting to adjust. I found it really hard at first to get all of my food in through the day because I was so full. (TMI alert) I spent more than a week feeling huge, bloated and uncomfortable but yesterday I woke up and could feel a significant difference in my body. I think I could even see it, my stomach wasn’t as distended as it was just hours before and a layer of water had disappeared from under my skin, giving me a peek at definition I hadn’t seen in months! (Oh, hey quads! Nice to see you again!)

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