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 about carbs and the countdown…

There are a few choice phrases that I have thrown around a couple of times a week for the past month or so:

“Ugh, I feel awful.”

“I have zero energy.”

“I need a nap.”

“I want to eat all of the things.”

One thing all those phrases have in common? High-carb day.

Wait, what?! HIGH carb day?!

Typically, those would be the sentiments of fitness competitors in the midst of cutting back on their carbohydrates, longingly watching as their precious oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are diminished by yet another 1/4 cup.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I am a person that functions better on very few carbs. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, to be honest.

Years ago (high school-era) I had a lot of issues with allergies. I was checked over by an allergist who found that I have a slew of environmental allergies but although digestion issues continued to plague me, I was not having an allergic reaction to any foods so we couldn’t quite pinpoint what the issue was.

Based on the recommendation of the allergist, my parents then took me to a Naturopath to test for sensitivities that a traditional scratch test wouldn’t pick up. The process was somewhat tedious – beginning with an elimination diet that left me restricted to mostly rice and oranges for weeks.

Both my parents have severe food allergies (citrus fruits on one side, shellfish on the other) but the more common foods were quickly ruled out. Through the process of eating different things and monitoring my reaction to them the Naturopath determined that one of the major foods that I am sensitive to is yeast.

For years I experienced extreme lethargy, low energy and difficulty concentrating through the day. As it turned out, the culprit was bread (I wasn’t much of a beer drinker as a teen :P). Cutting foods with yeast out of my diet was life-changing. My head was suddenly less cloudy, my grades improved and I finished my last year of high school with honours for the first time since I started. All because I stopped having toast, sandwiches, pizza, etc.

Other foods that I am sensitive to include apples, olives (I have a reputation in my family for always throwing up after holiday dinners – olives, we later discovered, were behind it), lactose and most forms of alcohol. Removing these elements from my diet was somewhat easy and once they were gone I was amazed by how much better I felt. In some ways, I hadn’t even realized I didn’t feel well until I felt better.

That is the same experience I’m having with carbs right now. My previous meal plans have always included the brown rice, quinoas and sweet potatoes of the world and I always assumed that the way I felt after I ate them was just the way I was supposed to feel -I was just digesting, it was from my intense amount of training or even all in my head. I wasn’t losing weight or body fat, I felt bloated and too-full all the time and above all, I felt HUNGRY. Ravenously hungry. All the time. That lead to the half dozen times (which I’ve mentioned on here) that I found myself “off the wagon” and shoving my face full of whatever I could find.

Since the end of January my meal plan has changed and my only carbs are a 1/4 cup of oats right after my morning workout. I never realized how terrible I felt before until now because I feel great. I won’t deny craving junk food, or even having had slip ups out of boredom and over-accessibility, but my physical cravings are non-existent. I don’t spend all day thinking about eating, I’m satiated until my next meal.

Leg days are supposed to be my “high-carb” days where I incorporate those foods back into my diet and if I were to make a confession… I’ve only actually had one in four weeks. I feel like crap every time so I’d just rather not. I guess that makes me one of the few people that will happily clean their plate of vegetables and meat then ask if someone wants their potatoes.

Ultimately it comes down to how I feel – if I don’t feel good then I’m not going to do it. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at most “diets” that are marketed these days. If they make you feel bad then stop doing it. Just don’t take that advice when you’re in the gym, otherwise no one would ever do another burpie ever again… 😛

PS: Tomorrow marks 13 weeks until I hit the WBFF stage and I still have a lot of improvements left to make. Here’s hoping that being the anti-carb ends up being the best thing my stomach ever decided for me.

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 at the end of week two…

Made it through another week of my road to the WBFF 2013 Atlantic Championships and I have nothing but good things to report.

My diet has been smooth sailing, I’ve had no problems staying on plan and my cravings for sweets have literally gone from uncontrollable to non-existent over the past two weeks. I’m never in a situation where I’m bored and feeling like I need a snack because I always know there’s another meal just around the corner so if I want to eat something I’ll cut up some cucumber or bell peppers and snack on that just to tide me over until I get to my next meal. (That’s happening right now actually, I’m munching on some green pepper because I know I have a full meal on the way in a half hour.)

It’s only been two weeks but I don’t think I’ve noticed any real changes as of yet. I should break down and weigh myself (I typically stay far away from scales) so that I can properly take my body fat percentage. I’m trying to get down to 15% body fat in increments of %5 at a time so I do need to keep an eye on how that is progressing, despite my reluctance to ever put any kind of focus on arbitrary numbers on a 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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The one with the hard sell…

If you follow me on Twitter you may have caught these Tweets from Saturday:

  • Considered switching gyms but guy at prospective gym tried to hard sell me everything but a mini-van.#thankyouno
  • Come to think of it he did mention fold flat seats… 

I’ve recently added power lifting to my strength routine and my gym doesn’t really have the room or the gear that I really want/need. When I got an email saying that my membership was up for renewal I thought I might check out what the competition had to offer since the other gym is closer to my house and has a better weight room. (The gym I go to has a pool and a track which the other doesn’t  so it does have its advantages, for sure.)

I went to the “other guys” to find out whether the price would be comparable to what I was paying and was a little surprised when I was required to take a tour and give them my name and info before they would tell me a price. Though I was somewhat perturbed by this, I complied and went on the tour.

The guy taking me on the tour was so condescending. He treated me like I had never stepped foot in a gym before, but maybe should have. He made an assumption that I was looking to lose weight and take spin classes, neither of which is something that I have any real interest in. I am a muscular person and won’t pretend to be small for a second but I’m pretty darn solid. I was insulted by the fact that a woman walking into the gym looking into pricing MUST be a.) not happy with her weight b.) not knowledgeable about fitness c.) only interested in group fitness.

During all of this he tried to sell me a $3500 training package and when I told him I already had a trainer he immediately pointed out that they wouldn’t be able to work out with me there, that I wouldn’t have their equipment to workout with anyone but their trainers. I’m aware of that, thank you. I work out with her at HER gym.

I was put off immediately (I don’t do well with pressure sales) and upon finishing the tour was STILL not able to find out a price. He told me I should try the gym out for a week and then he’d give me a quote. A QUOTE? I thought I was buying a gym membership not having my floors tiled. I said forget it, that I wasn’t interested. Then came the fun part…

The guy tried to GUILT me into taking the free 7-day pass because if I didn’t then obviously I didn’t care much about my health. Obviously looking good isn’t important to me. Obviously feeling good isn’t important to me.

Right… because if you work out at another gym you’re automatically fat and ugly? You can keep your pretentious 7-day pass and your barter-for-your-membership policies and go away now. I’ll be staying with my original gym where the employees don’t work on commission and aren’t encouraged to try and make people feel like crap about themselves for the sake of a sale. They might only have one squat rack but I like every person who works there so I will continue to give them my $50 every month.

The one about Annapolis…

I had to do some research today for my internship. There was a photo in the newspaper of a woman named Marsalie MacKenzie modelling a dress, who happened to be an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.  I was then tasked with finding out who this woman was so we could include the mention in our regular media monitoring. So, like all good researchers, I hit up Google.

What I ended up finding could not have been more fitting for my particular interests. As it turns out this woman attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 2009 as a Canadian exchange student from the Royal Military College. While she was there she wrote up a series of blog posts for the RMC website, one of which was about the stringent fitness requirements all the midshipmen are required to undergo.

Clearly, there is quite a difference between rights and freedoms in the US than there is in Canada because some of the rules they have to adhere to would be considered discrimination under our laws. For example, MacKenzie writes:

“Generally speaking, the average midshipman was leaner and meaner than their RMC counterpart-so much so that it led me to ask my roommates if it was in their constitution to attain (and maintain) rock-hard abs and chiselled pecs. At first they laughed and informed me that their chubbier peers, like bats or raccoons, only came out at night and at meals. As it turns out though, my original assertion was not so far-fetched; as my roommates explained, part of the yearly in-clearance procedure at the Naval Academy requires them to undergo height and weight testing, the results of which determines their eligibility for service.”

After reading this passage I immediately wondered what height and weight testing has to do with anything. When I joined the military in 2005 there was a requirement that before you went to basic training you had to pass your physical fitness test. During the year or so that it took to complete all of my paperwork and wait for my trade to become available that rule changed. At that point you could join the military in any shape and they would make sure that when you left you were fit. When I went to basic training you had to pass your PT test in the first week in order to move on with your platoon. If you didn’t pass your PT test you were moved to RFT (remedial fitness training) where you spent a month having some of the best fitness trainers in the country ‘whip you into shape’. At the end of that month you had to be able to pass your PT test and rarely was there an occasion where someone who stuck it out for that month would not be able to do it.

I won’t deny that I was weighed and measured when I went for my intial medical testing but that wasn’t got me into the military. It was my aptitude, my ability, my smarts that got me in and it was my level of fitness that carried me through until an injury led to my early release. The ultimate question though, was always ‘Can you pass your PT test?’ and you didn’t go anywhere until that answer was yes. I believe that is the way it should be but according to MacKenzie things are slightly different when it comes to the US Navy.

“However, in early October, I was summoned by my lieutenant, who informed me that I would report to the fifth wing gym to be weighed in with the UNSATS (those who had failed to meet their requirements in September). Some veterans of the process took it upon themselves to explain to me the protocol. First, each midshipman is led to a scale where their weight is recorded. Simultaneously, their height is measured by a second individual, while a third does a quick calculation. If they meet requirements, the midshipman is free to leave. If they do not, they are led to a pen where they await further measurement of their neck, waist, arms and calves (this is to ensure that “athletic builds,” specifically wrestlers, are not misidentified as overweight). Those who are UNSAT after this process are then placed on a strict diet, with portions rationed to them at every meal, and forced to attend supplementary morning PT (regardless of whether or not they have passed their physical fitness testing). Ironically, those midshipmen placed on special diets are the only ones allowed to have a fridge in their rooms for personal use.”

I understand wanting your recruits to be healthy and I understand encouraging them to make healthy selections when they walk into the mess hall. (Perhaps making healthy selections the only ones available would be a better method?) How though, can you expect someone to be able to giving a top performance both mentally a physically when someone else is controlling their calorie intake? Not because they’re ill, not because their body requires it, but because an arbitrary set of numbers has determined that they should eat less. What really irks me is that someone can pass their PT test but if their BMI isn’t ‘ideal’ they still have to take supplementary PT until it is? Your height to weight ratio has nothing to do with your ability to do your duties whether it’s for the military or not. And the reason for why they do this? According to MacKenzie the answer she got was that it was all about appearance. It’s not about doing your job, it’s about looking good in a uniform.

“From what I could deduce,” MacKenzie writes, “the US Navy considers this impossible for anyone wearing above a women’s size 10 or a men’s size 36 pants. Apparently, a lower BMI is a testament to an individual’s leadership potential; as it turns out, looking like ‘an officer’ is just as important as being one.”

Is this really the military we should all be looking up to as a standard for leadership? I have a hard time thinking so. Regardless of your ratio of height to weight if you serve your country, proudly wear the flag on your arm, and do your duties as required to the best of your ability, including passing your PT test, then you’re the one we should be looking up to.

Source

The one about popularity…

This will probably come as no surprise (or maybe it will?) but the most popular entry in this blog is a product review for a certain pair of “Weight Loss Pants”. I use quotes because I am referring to them figuratively and not literally, since they don’t actually do that.

If you’ve forgotten about that series of posts or want to refresh your memory you can find them here and here.

Every time I check the most common search terms that people use when they stumble into my world through the Google machine it’s overwhelmingly that of “Zaggora Hot Pants Review” and I find that any time those damn things go on sale there is a big surge of searching.

This morning I checked my email and there was a Groupon message declaring “Up to 59% Off Weight-Loss HotPants” in the title and I knew there was going to be another jump in searches and decided to bump the topic back up to the top. On a side note, it does make me somewhat happy that people are doing their research before they go ahead and buy something.

For anyone who may be finding this post through post-purchase research, take note:

  • Wearing a pair of noisy shorts 24/7 will not change your body composition.
  • The only way you can do that is through hard work, dedication, balanced nutrition and exercise.
  • Don’t let a gimmicky pair of pants take the credit for all that hard work.

Seriously people, I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it… it doesn’t do this company any benefit for you to actually lose weight. You would then not be buying their stuff and they would go bankrupt (see: weight loss pill industry).

You will lose a ton of water (the pants make you sweat like the dickens because they’re uncomfortably hot – AND NOISY) which you will then have to replace and when you don’t see results you will just work harder until you do then say it was the pants that did it. No, you could have done it in a pair of LuLus because you’re awesome.

If their marketing was true and you could lose 2 pant sizes every week just by wearing the shorts you would eventually waste away. If you want to buy them just to have a pair of knee length running shorts (I do like that about them) I can get behind that, but don’t  buy into the advertising.

/end rant