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 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

The one with my results…

Tomorrow will be a week since the Blue Nose Marathon so I figured I might as well catch you all up on how I did!

I could not have asked for a better day to run this 5K. It was a tad on the warm side but luckily I wasn’t going all that far. Keeping the course in mind I had set a goal time for myself of 35:00. Again, slow, but I am a tortoise and proud of it. We started running just after the marathon runners which was a little intimidating because they were SO in it to win and I was like, “Yay 5K! Go me!” haha

My bib and shirt!

We all got warmed up with a little pre race Zumba which was fun, and a different way of warming up. I quite enjoyed it except I almost killed the girl next to me when I stepped on her foot. Oops!

Then we were off! I will say that one thing I didn’t like was that there was no order when they lined everyone up at the start. There were nordic walkers and walkers at the front which made it very challenging to try and get out of the pack.

I spent a lot of time (and energy) dodging around walkers, fighting to get myself to a point where I could set a steady pace and stay in it. Every time I tried I would catch up to a pack of walkers that were walking three across or had nordic poles that I had to try and get around.

I had a chance to make up some of my time when I had the most energy at the start of the race but that took a lot of my time.

Regardless, I managed to get myself behind someone who ran about as fast as me and just settled in. The hill getting up to the top of the Citadel was unreal. I won’t lie, it was downright hard. What surprised me though was that it wasn’t the hardest part. I got up the super steep hill thinking to myself ‘Wow, that wasn’t so bad’ but then had to tackle to really long gradual hills and I found those far more draining on my energy. I pushed through though!

Once I got to the top of Citadel Hill and I knew that all that was left was downhill, a flat section, and a slight uphill to the finish I got a little excited/emotional. It was a beautiful view from way up there, I could see the entire city – so impressive. I really had to hold myself back when I actually said to myself, “The hardest part of this is over. You’re going to finish strong.” That was at the 3K flag.

Admittedly, I didn’t finish as strong as I would have liked to. I made a stupid mistake on the downhill section. I thought I could pick up some of the time I lost on the uphill by speeding my jog up to a run. The problem being that I didn’t really slow back down when I got to the flat section and by the time I hit the uphill to the finish I was toast. My body rebelled against me and just came to a complete stop. I had to walk for about 30 seconds but I did NOT want to walk across the finish line.

This is where it gets kind of funny. I needed to run again but my lungs were burning and my legs hurt and I just wanted to be done. So I resorted to drastic measures and said to myself, “Dinosaurs are chasing you. You’d better run.” For some ridiculous reason that worked and I scrounged up every tiny bit of energy I had left and sprinted to the finish line. My finish line photos are simply horrendous. I look TERRIBLE! lol

I finished though (within a minute and a half of my goal!) and that’s what matters. Now, I just want to get a bit faster!

Blue Nose Marathon 5K Results 
Goal time: 0:35:00
Finish time: 0:36:17.1
663rd place out of 1414 runners
179th out of 298 women 20-29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next race: Support the Troops Navy 10K – 19 August 2012

The one about plyo…

Usually when I meet up with trainer Cathy she asks me what, if anything, I’d like to focus on for that workout.

My answer is always the same – plyometrics.

I absolutely love doing plyo. There’s just something about that ability to use explosive energy to move yourself higher, faster, further that I find strangely satisfying.

Traditional cardio is my biggest downfall so I try to use active rest during my strength training (between sets) as a way to keep my heart rate up and get quality cardio in without the unhappiness that I generally find associated with sitting on a bike for an hour or running 5K. A lot of people are afraid of plyometrics though, or they don’t know where to begin. Most people know of a jump squat and a jump lunge, both effective, but doing them over and over again can get boring. There’s so much more to plyometrics that people can take advantage of to really ramp up their workout! Here’s a little Plyometrics 101 for those who might be curious about taking the leap… literally.

Plyometrics comes from the Greek word “pleythyein” (to augment or increase). American track coach Fred Wilt coined the word in 1975. Based from the Latin root words “plio” (more) and “metric” (to measure). The purpose of plyometrics is to train speed-based power. Almost everyone has done plyometrics at some point in their life, it’s the basis of running, skipping, throwing and jumping. This isn’t to be confused with power training – one single jump onto a high box doesn’t constitute plyometrics. It’s when you jump off the box, immediately load the muscle and go back into the stretch as you jump again that qualifies it. Speed does trump power. It’s a good idea to have a foundation in weight training before trying some of these moves. The cardio-only types might find it a bit too challenging starting out.

Here’s some terminology you might come across when exploring different types of plyo:
Jump – when you land with both feet
Hop – take off and landing on the same foot
Bound – take off on one foot, land on the other
Hurdle – jump up and over an object

Don’t forget your upper body either! Though more challenging, there’s lots of great options for plyometric exercises for your arms and chest. (Clap pushups, anyone?)

Fit Deck cards

I love my FitDeck cards!

I find a great way to always keep your plyometric exercises different is by making a deck of plyo cards or purchasing the plyometrics deck of FitDeck cards.

If you’re going to make your own, make a list of plyo exercises with a mix of speed, agility and footwork, (you can find all sorts of examples on bodybuilding.com, just click plyometrics on the filter) then flip three cards, add them up and do that many.

Plyometrics doesn’t just keep your heart rate up between sets either, it’s also a great fat burner! I often include plyo in the strength and conditioning class I teach and my “students” don’t dread anything more!

As motivation I often quote fitness great Jamie Eason, “By hitting both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, these moves also will stoke your fat-burning furnace. Picture the marbling in a steak. Our bodies have intra-muscular fat like that. Plyometric exercises help “squeeze” the fat from those areas.”

Somehow that always works at getting another couple of reps in spite of the burning muscle pain! 😛

Here are some of my favourite plyometric exercises:
Jump rope
Hurdle jumps (I do them over a bench)
Knee tucks (or knee to chest hop)
Mountain climbers
Medicine ball slam 

Get jumping!

The one with the shins…

I feel like I have been neglecting my blogging duties. I find this most troublesome.

When I realized today that it had been more than a week since my last post I wondered what on earth happened that threw off my schedule so much?! The answer, of course, is life. I’m coming into the home stretch of school, roughly four weeks left before I go on my internship. I’m trying to prep for the real world that will be on the other side, keeping up with volunteer commitments and of course leaving plenty of time for my training.

I was recently given the opportunity to write an article for an upcoming issue of OptiMYz Magazine. It was very exciting, especially once I learned that I would be interviewing an incredibly inspiring marathon runner/triathlete that lives in my city. I met her for coffee and we chatted for an hour, it was awesome. I definitely asked questions far beyond the realm of the article but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when there was a wealth of knowledge sitting right there in front of me. I won’t go into many more details because I don’t want to spoil the article. (It’ll be in the May/June edition – Goodlife members get the mag for free so there’s no excuse not to read it :P)

Before the interview my running had been less than stellar. Fine, less than existent. My running had been going… okay… back in January/February but I let weights take over and let the cardio fall by the wayside, my own fault. Part of the reason I typically avoid running is that I always get shin splints. I could jog to catch the light at a crosswalk and get them. I dream about running and wake up with sore shins.

Prior to suffering a knee injury in 2007 I had never even heard of shin splints, let alone had them. I’m unsure if perhaps the months of being injured followed by months of recovery had altered my gait or if my shins just decided to hate me but once I started running again it was awful.

When I started looking up causes/preventions there seemed to be a general assumption that if you get shin splints you don’t have strong calves or you’re a beginner. Neither of those things really apply to me. Some people said ‘oh they just go away after a few minutes!’ except they don’t. I’ve had them during and after every single run since 2007.

I finally cracked and saw the doctor. Which, for me, is huge because I hate to complain about my ailments. The doctor sent me to physio, the physio said get new shoes. Got new, expensive, not-supposed-to-lead-to-shin-splits quality footwear and still got shin splints. I then saw a pedorthist (which I still credit for being one of the best things I have ever done!) who discovered that I have one leg that is longer than the other, which may have been the root cause for my knee problems, hip problems and *gasp* shin splints! I got amazing orthotics which have made my knee stronger than ever and corrected the issues with my hip but I’m still getting shin splints!

I’m at a loss at this point. I can’t enjoy running if every time I do it I want to rip my shins off five minutes in. There’s got to be something else I can do, someone else I can see for a different opinion, to try and rectify this problem. Have any of you ever suffered with this annoying curse?

The one about inspiration…

This week I really needed some inspiration and I am thankful to have gotten it.

I haven’t talked much about my training lately because honestly I always have a lingering fear of failure in the back of my mind. I worry that if I’m too vocal about what I’m doing and then fail, I’ll have to be accountable for it. I’ve come to realize though that talking about it just means there are more people there to support and encourage me which makes it easier to succeed. So, upon the suggestion of a peer friend, I will be sure to update more often with my training progress.

I’m one day shy of finishing the fifth week of some fairly intensive strength training and I won’t lie, I’m starting to get tired. I’ve been fighting off a cold for a week and although working out regularly has kept my immune system high enough that I haven’t fallen completely into the grips of illness it’s still left me feeling a bit drained.

This week kicked off with two really terrible workouts. Monday morning I did an hour of lacklustre weights and was about halfway through my cardio when out of nowhere my engine sputtered and stalled. I had totally run out of gas. That would normally be the point where I would push myself to just make it through the rest but I couldn’t. I can’t recall the last time I felt like I had nothing left like that. I left the gym literally sick and tired. I went home, ate, and relaxed for a bit and did manage to have a much better cardio session later in the day.

I was desperately in need of some motivation and it came in the form of a simple Twitter notification.

If you remember from this post, she is one of my biggest fitness idols. I randomly replied to one of her tweets and she started following me because she thought the name of my blog is funny. It might seem silly but her follow on Twitter reminded me of what I’m trying to accomplish. Some day I want to be as inspiring to others as she is to me and I don’t think she would let a couple of bad workouts or some sore muscles stop her from reaching her goals. She is to me what Sidney Crosby is to every TimBit hockey player in Canada.

I kept those women that I mentioned weeks ago in the back of my mind as my alarm went off at oh-dark-thirty the next day and I powered through my workout. By Wednesday I was feeling better (albeit still trying to kick some chest congestion) and Thursday I felt more like myself again.

I workout alone most of the time so I don’t have another person driving and motivating me from five feet away. For me, I need to surround myself with strong, positive influences while I’m not in the gym and use them as my inspiration. I might not know Emily Stirling beyond Twitter (though maybe one day I will, I don’t want to speak too soon! lol) but she inspires me to push through one more rep the same way that trainer Cathy does for me when we are able to find time together.

I followed up that excitement by meeting with that friend I mentioned up at the top who told me I need to talk more about my training. She gave me some really great advice that I am definitely going to take, and likely blog about later. 🙂 I thought I would kick off my new trend by listing my current goals. Maybe getting them out there will help me make them reality.

Goals (as of March 2012)

In the next six months:
1. Finish my advanced diploma in public relations (five projects and one internship remain!)
2. Work out six times a week (six strength – three cardio)
3. Eat clean
4. Be able to finally give trainer Cathy that chin up she’s been demanding for years

In the next year:
1. Get a communications job in a health/fitness focused organization
2. Earn my personal training certification from CanFitPro
3. Compete in a fitness competition

Wish me luck!

The one with the dream…

I see chiseled muscles in my dreams.

You might think I’m talking about some fellow worthy of a romance novel cover but I’m actually talking about my own.

We had a guest speaker in one of my classes this week that said something that  has really stuck with me. She said before setting out to try something new ask yourself, “What does success look like?”. She was referring more to how one might evaluate the success of a strategic event plan but to me it meant so much more.

I realized then that my dreams were just my own personal manifestation of what success looks like. Now when I ask myself, “What does success look like?”, I know. Success looks like Jamie Eason, Emily Stirling, Lauren Fazio and Julie Bonnett to name just a few of the beautiful, successful, women I have seen strut their stuff on the stages of fitness competitions.

Realistically I know that being at that level is a lofty goal to achieve (not impossible – nothing is impossible) but I would be happy to have a sliver of what they have. It’s not a matter of wanting to be someone I’m not, it’s being inspired by others. You need someone there, even if you don’t know them, to keep you going when all you want to do is quit.

I’ve weight trained for years and although I have been serious about it I’ve always sort of stayed within my comfort zone, never being bold enough to really jump into the unknown. The past little while though I realized I’m ready and I’ve undertaken some huge changes to my weight routine. I feel strong and empowered and ready to take on the world. Now I’m just patiently waiting for my body to start showing me the fruits of my labour. I am not all that patient but I will try to hang on and do one more rep even though it burns because four weeks down the road I might finally get to see the outcome.

Until then, I guess I’ll just keep dreaming of my own success.

Product Review – Zaggora Hot Pants (the finale!)

It’s been two weeks, time to see the results of the Zaggora Hot Pants test!

To bring you up to speed in case you missed the last post on this topic (though you can read it here) the company that sells these shorts claims they will slim you down by two pant sizes in just two weeks. The only thing you need to do is exercise in the shorts for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Easy, right?

I tried to do one better and I did my entire hour and a half workout in the pants for 3-4 days both weeks. I figured that the extra time wouldn’t hurt the results. On the Zaggora website they also say that wearing the shorts for every day tasks such as housework, laundry, and sleeping would also enhance the magic so, in the spirit of trying everything they say, I did that too. I’m surprised I could sleep considering how loud the shorts are but I managed to do it! 😛

I’m a size 10 (US) so if the shorts worked the way they said I should be able to fit into an 8, right? Also, I took measurements before I started wearing them. My hips were 42″ and thighs 25.3″.

Time for the big reveal… after two weeks of wearing the noisiest pants in history during my runs, while I slept, and while I did dishes I lost a grand total of… *drum roll*

NOTHING! 

Yup, that’s right. I’m exactly the same size now as I was when I started this product review. All in all I’d say that the Zaggora Hot Pants did not live up to the hype. They did make me sweat more but what I lost in water I was replenishing because I drink a lot of fluids every day. I went above and beyond their “requirements”, was still eating healthy meals, and drinking more than enough water so their claims that someone who can eat burgers for lunch every day and still lose two sizes by wearing a pair of shorts? False. My guess is it’s either a placebo effect or they are using results from people who drastically change their eating habits for the better when they start wearing them.

(This is the reason “results not typical” disclaimers exist.)

Be on the lookout for the next product review soon where we’ll nibble on the (far less noisy) Enerjive quinoa snack crisps!