Category Archives: Helpful

I Don’t Like It…

I don’t like when something isn’t right

I don’t like when it feels out of sorts

I don’t like not having a “hold” on things

I don’t like the swell of frustration in my head

I don’t like it.

My head is awash with so much running through it at the minute, it’s hard to string a concise sentence together. Even now, I’ve been sat staring at this page for longer than I care to admit; trying to find the words & not just FFAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  When I’m occupied to a level that I can only think on what it is I’m doing at that very minute; I am fine.  It’s when I have a moment, I used to enjoy the peace, the solitude, the “alone time” and now it feels like a constant buzzing of white noise whirling around.

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I used to be of the belief that if you can change something, to change it & if you can’t; to forget it & move on. You’ll waste too much energy dwelling on things that you have no control over.  I probably still think that way, but at the minute I am stuck & I hate it more than I’ve hated anything for a very long time.  My previous post was about frustration & I guess this is a follow-up (after a conversation with Andy on Friday) as I kinda have a clearer idea; a new perspective on how to look at it.

You can either let the frustration take over you & allow it to consume you or you can look at it as a driving force to become greater than you thought you could be.

So, in a nutshell.  I’m pissed off.  There’s so much that annoys me at the minute it’s hard to see the light, however being as annoyed as I am with many aspect of my life, shows that I’m not happy with my current situation -which is a GOOD thing.  It means I don’t want to settle, I don’t want to just “be”

It’s given me the vigour I’ve desperately missed for the last few weeks, if not months.  I got complacent, then got irritated.  The irritation is my driving force.  Not happy?  Use it! Channel it into something that will make you happy.

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Phillipe wants to go down the safer looking route

Since Friday, I’ve had some of the best training sessions I’ve had for a long time.  I deadlifted more on my own than I’ve done since about February, I gave myself some of the most heinous DOMS that the cycle to the gym today felt like I was cycling through thick glue & it was never going to end.

Today, my session was incredible. I felt so content leaving the gym, there’s something to be said about hormone releases during exercise.  It’d have been interesting to see my dopamine levels as I was cycling home – interesting fact, there’s a blog post about dopamine & it’s effect on your motivation levels, not just it being the “reward hormone” It made a lot of sense to me, this feeling I have now is one that a few years ago was with me permanently, I was driven to be better, I strived to become greater than I was, I wasn’t going to be beaten or have someone be more recognised than I was (this was in a work environment where I excelled)

It was an eye opener.  That time in my life is gone, I miss it everyday & the void it left inside me was getting bigger.  I *think* I’ve finally found the solution.  Training has taught me so much about myself.  This last year has seen me do so much more than I ever thought possible, it’s given back to me more than I could have ever imagined.  I’m not the physically strongest, but fuck me; I’ve had some pretty epic hurdles to jump over since I started this blog.  My self doubt, my struggles with food, overcoming the desire to quit – more than once.

How I feel now, was the feeling I had when the year started – before everything started to go wrong.  I still wonder where I’d be now if everything had gone smoothly this year, but what would I have learned?

Side note:  Having an AMAZING support structure has helped me overcome the darkness that was trying to swallow me.  Thank you, Burton.  Thank you Gem & everyone else that has messaged me recently.  you’ll never know how much your kindness has helped me.  ❤

I leave you with an image of the cheesecake I made when I got home from the gym:

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Yeah, No. Don’t Put Me Down For Cardio…..

Cardio.

There are die hard fans & avid “would-rather-die” fans.   Some people do it because they have to, some do it as a warm up & others will avoid it like the plague.

I hate cardio.  I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than partake in HIIT training & the thought of using a treadmill makes me all squiddly. I absolutely & unequivocally do not understand those who can run for hours; whether that’s on a treadmill in the gym or those who think that there is nothing better than running a marathon.

My Life’s Motto

That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those who CHOOSE to do all the cardio because it’s what they enjoy doing – I’ll happily congratulate you on beating your PB or getting a medal at the end of a gruelling race.  Just don’t expect me to go with you the next time you decide to run, I have better things to do…..like sit on the sofa & do nothing.

Once upon a time I did not think this way, I thought anyone who did cardio for longer than a warm up was insane – however (& this is where it may be a little confusing as I already said I hate it) I am a better, “healthier” person because of cardio.  I don’t consider what I do to be cardio though; because I absolutely, undeniably LOVE what I do (those new to the blog, I cycle around 60 miles (95km) a week, every week) It’s not a chore – most days – I don’t class it as cardio because cardio to me insinuates getting all sweaty & jumping around like a lunatic in a warm, stale gym studio; or as previously mentioned *shudder* running.

I genuinely believe that you should find a cardio form that you enjoy, because if you do – you’ll want to do it more than forcing yourself to do something you hate; it’s why I don’t do HIIT, aerobics, P90X, spinning etc – they’re my idea of torture.

Anyway, I have a point.  (I’m sorry if this seems really unstructured & garbled; I have a lot on my mind & trying to isolate my point is proving a little difficult)

  • I cycled everywhere as a child, I thought getting back on a bike would be easy, it wasn’t.
  • For the first few weeks, if not months I had to pace myself; stopping to catch my breath because it felt like my lungs were on fire
  • My water bottle became my best friend
  • The thought of cycling after it’d snowed was the least enthusiastic I’d been about doing anything for at least a decade
  • My legs hurt, my chest hurt, my face hurt.  I seriously questioned my sanity more than once when I started cycling again

You know what?  I could have easily jacked it in & went back to a 5 minute “death sentence” on the cross trainer for every gym session, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I absolutely love being out on the bike.

The human body is a delicate piece of intricate machinery & like a beautiful car, it requires a lot of TLC – Something far too many of us, have all at one point or another not done.  I knew when I first got my bike last year that I was not fit, but was not expecting the ordeal it was to cycle on a daily basis.  My blood pressure has always been pretty steady; sometimes on the lower scale, but my resting heart rate was something else; averaging around 75BPM.  Below is a screenshot from my Fitbit app; my resting heart rate is now anywhere between 48BPM – 53BPM & I owe it to cardio.  Cardio has also been a MASSIVE help in my weight loss & reduction in body fat, I lost 6lb in the first month of cycling to & from work or the gym.

THAT’S AN ATHLETE LEVEL RHR!

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Also, y’know if the zombies ever appear; never, ever forget Rule #1:


How Much Food Is Enough?

There have been multitudes of various different recommendations from WHO, the FDA & governments from around the world about “how much” food you should eat; the food guide pyramid, using your fist & hand as a portion guide, or even Michelle Obama teaching people about the “food plate”, to name but a few.  Obesity in the US started in the 70’s when food needed to be cheaper, so it was bulked out with lots of processed things – which made it taste awful so sugar was added in vast quantities, a seemingly fine idea at the time that people are paying with their lives for now.

As someone who has struggled with food for many years, knowing how much to eat has been a constant battle for me.  However, if training has taught me anything it’s that you really need to pay attention to what you eat; as well as how much of it you eat.  I’ve tweaked my food intake vastly since I began training & my current food relationship is a mostly healthy one. I seem to have adapted a high fat/high protein & low-ish carb kind of thing.  However, a more in-depth post about my current “diet” will be forthcoming in a few weeks.

Mmmmm, bacon. *homer drool*

So, that being said…..with all the vast choices of diets & faddy “lose weight FAST” kind of advertising about, it’s no wonder people often find themselves slipping from one diet to another; losing weight only to put it back on due to restricting certain foods & finally, admit defeat on the “contraband” and gorge until you feel sick & full of guilt.  Usual pattern, no?

I did Dukan 2 years ago, & while I did lose about 2 stone doing it, it didn’t stay off.  As soon as we stopped the crazy restrictiveness (my hubby did it with me) the looseness in my clothes that I’d began to notice started to lessen.  After that I just kinda went back to the “old” way I ate; skipping breakfast, grabbing something sugary/processed for lunch along with crisps or whatever & then devour a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s every few weeks because well, why not?!  It was only when I started going to the gym & Andy asked me for a food diary of a few days that I found out that what I was eating was mostly awful.

I was given a guide on foods to stick too, if it wasn’t on the list I didn’t eat it.  I experimented and managed to get a decent diet sorted & lost a few pound in the process.  By this time, I was cycling & was advised to recalculate what I was eating as that level of cardio meant I needed to refuel more than what I was used to; or risk going catabolic – a process that essentially uses your muscle to refuel, meaning muscle loss & fat gain NOT something I was aiming for.

I started looking at calculating what I needed, there’s a few TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculators on-line, I used a few then took an average & used that on My Fitness Pal….it wasn’t working though.  I was cycling through my calories….literally. I had MFP paired with a cycling app & the results were, less than promising.  I needed to eat.  This was disconcerting.  Especially as everything in the media tells us to eat less not more, we’re surrounded by people pushing low fat garbage at us; “guaranteeing” to help weight loss….ummm, no. Stop that. My issue was that I felt full,but how? I was eating about 500 calories less than my original TDEE calculation had said, there was no way I could fit more in…..was there?  I heard about macros through xxfitness (an amazing subreddit for ladies) and looked in to that side, instead of calories.

Recently, I learned how to calculate macros myself. they need tweaking from time to time, however this is the formula:

Calculate the calories you need:

Calculating for cutting (Fat loss)

Bodyweight in lbs x 11, 12, 13, or 14

11 if you’re sedentary with little exercise

12 if you’re sedentary & train 2-3 times a week

13 if you’re active & train 3-4 times a week

14 if you’re active & train 4-6 times a week, or more.

Then, from that you can work out your own macros:

Protein:

Take your weight in lb & that’s how many grams you should eat

Fat:

Ideally, you should aim for 0.3 to 0.6 grams of fat per pound of weight.

Carbohydrates:

Take your daily protein & multiply by 4. This is because there are 4 calories per gram of protein. Then multiply fat by 9, as there are 9 calories of fat per gram.

Add the numbers together & minus your calorie intake to get total carbs.

 Using this helped me work out how much of each macro I needed, so now when I prep for the week I can gauge how much of each macro I need per meal.  They’re not hard & fast rules though & you require a “delicate balance” so you don’t begin to panic if you’re over or under on a macro.

Since starting training & being more aware of food I’ve lost 17kg (2st 6lb, or 37lb) however have gained strength.  My total inch loss is around 12″, oh & my body fat percentage has gone from 35% to around 20%. It has taken me months of trying various different eating plans to find something that I’m happy with & what works for me – everyone is different & what is working for me, may not necessarily work for you, however a good place to start is knowing how many macros you need!


A Quick Progress Update………

I posted a progress picture earlier & Andy had some feedback for me, I won’t bore you with details but he essentially aid I’m still selling myself short.  Tonight; whilst perusing facebook I happened upon an old image that I decided to change to a progress picture instead:

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The text I added to it was as follows:

A progress picture; with a difference. This is not about weight, not about physique nor vanity or whatever. This is about my overall well-being and being able to function without grimacing in pain.

First image is from October 2013, I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Taking tramadol, ibuprofen and gabapentin like they were smarties. I was awaiting my appointment to beg for spinal surgery because I was tired. Tired of hurting, tired of not being able to carry shit, tired of waking up in the night because my back hurt.

Fast forward to now and, although the pain is still there, it’s no longer constant. It’s no longer looming over my head like a grey cloud. My medication intake has dropped to a few codeine every now and again, only if I really, really need them.

It’s not been easy and I’m no where near my goal, but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was. I wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I’ve received. “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

That is all. For now.


“Does My Butt Look Big In This?”

It’s not so much as does it look big, more of a “Can I see your pants through it?” If the answer ever is yes, then wear a longer shirt, better still; change!

When I first started going to the gym, I bought “sweat pants”, none of this marl grey, elasticated at the bottom – but nevertheless, *shudder* tracksuit bottoms.  (anyone that has known me for a while knows how much I loathe sports gear, or sports gear worn as day-to-day gear, wearing this stuff made me feel dirty – I shit you not) However, needs must & I couldn’t go to the gym wearing jeans & an All Saints Top! Well, I could have but no.  Just. No.

Yeah, so your average supermarket tracksuit bottoms, usually found with the hoodies & things, a sports bra as well as a baggy shirt with a pocket for my phone.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to then fail & have to sell it all on eBay because the guilt of looking at all the tiny spandex items was slowly destroying my soul.

Then there was my shoes.  Oooh, my shoes.  I’ve already mentioned my loathing for all things sport related?  Yes? Good.  My shoes were Reebok Easytone – they were a birthday present a few years previous from my husband (remember, up until 6 months ago I was quite, quite lazy) I thought they’d be fine, they look the part, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight?

Yeah, they probably do but they were very, very wrong!  Initially, cardio, resistance machines etc & these were fine; it was once I started lifting that they became a problem – the soles are set to be off balance; in theory you correct your posture & they’re supposed to help tone your legs. whatever. I liked em, which is why I got them.  More on footwear later.

That was all to begin with, however I do now have a penchant for gym gear.  The first thing I replaced was the bra, I didn’t need massive support as I wasn’t running, so didn’t require anything above a medium impact. The vests I wore had racer backs, so it made sense to get a racer back bra too – I have wired gym bras as well as non…..stick with non.  Even if you think you need them, you really, really don’t want a piece of metal digging in to your ribs whilst lifting some heavy shit.  If you’re unsure of your size, there’s a fantastic Subreddit that can help you! Everyone will be different though, this is just what’s worked for me.

Now, 6 months in my gym gear comprises of the following:

New Balance Minimus 3090 V3 Trainers

1 Pair Compression Gear Leggings*

1 Pair Altura Night Vision Leggings*

1 Pair Base Layer leggings – For when cycling required 2 pairs!

1 MuddyFox Cycling Skort*

2 Pairs Adidas Climalite Leggings – these were invaluable cycling in the winter!

3 pairs of Gym Leggings

5 Gym Vests

2 Baggy Cropped Gym Shirts

2 zipped top/hoodie things

A small arsenal of trainer socks

The stuff highlighted in bold is stuff for gym & cycling – the stuff with stars next to it is solely for cycling.  Have you seen cycling leggings?  They have their own seat! No one wants to see that in the gym!

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 I didn’t buy it all at once either!  After changing bras I looked at vests, moreso the ones with”wicking” – this is the ability to move sweat away from the body more quickly.  I was still at baggy pants stage though; it was only once my bottoms started to become an indecency risk that I ventured in to gym leggings.  I own sports brand ones as well as “TK Maxx’s Finest” and the TK Maxx ones outshine the branded ones – one day doing leg presses, I could see my thigh tattoo as clearly as I can through 80 denier tights, so they’re relegated to upper body days only now!

I don’t wear all of it regularly, I have clear favourites – something a few months ago I’d have laughed at!

I also own water resistant headphones as well recently upgrading my wearable to a FitBit Surge – they’re not for everyone but I’ve had a wearable for the past er, year (ish) and was waiting for the perfect combination of my needs in a watch, the Surge has all of that.  It’s still VERY early days with it though, so no more about it for now.

So, based on my limited knowledge/experience of gym stuffs here are my pointers:

  • Don’t buy expensive – unless they’re a specific item that you *know* you’re going to use; my Altura leggings for example cost me the same as about 10 pairs of non gym leggings, but they’re made specifically for cycling & you can tell when you’re wearing them.
  • Don’t buy a lot! Especially in the early days of gym going; I’ve lost about 14″ overall & I’ve thrown away some of my earlier gear because it got too big
  • Don’t be put off by it looking really small on the hanger – this stuff stretches, it’s designed to “hug” (That doesn’t mean you buy a small because, in a few months you will be that size, but then you wear it now)
  • Get the right shoes! Digging through your clothes & finding a pair of Nike Air Max from your school days might be ok to begin with, but you’ll need decent footwear – and it can all depend on what you’re doing in the gym as to what is right footwear & what isn’t.  (A little example – running shoes are not designed for squatting – there’s too much squish in the soles)
  • Clothes should fit, not be baggy everywhere – you need to be able to move freely & long flowly gear may be good for a Sunday stroll, it is not good for training. If you want to wear something loose, layer it.
  • NO GLOVES! Grip strength will not improve with gloves, just no.  If you’re gonna go heavy with weights, there’s wrist wraps & things, but no gloves.  My gloves are now relegated to my cycling.
  • Wicking!!  I cannot stress this enough, guys & gals! Wicking is your friend – Also labelled as Moisture wicking on garments, but its the same stuff
  • No matter what you’re wearing, keep going. You’re doing great!  But seriously, you’ll do a lot better with the right gear!

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First gym session next to most recent gym session.

As a side note, ladies; take the jewellery off, tie your hair back, & remove the make-up


Foam Rollers – The Modern Day Torture Device You Should Be Using

Foam rolling is a fairly new thing for me, before I moved to LSF Gym I’d never heard of them.  Andy suggested using it to help release any muscle knots from my cycling.  Sweet baby jeebus!!  It was gooooooooooooooooood but it also hurt; adding additional hand pressure just amplifies the pain/pleasure that emanates from these little rolls of plastic.  I now own my own little torture roll & have combined breakfast eating with rolling before.

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There are many types of foam rollers, some are harder than others – these hurt more & some have grid/nodule patterns on them.  When I started foam rolling I’d opt for the softer version, however the one I purchased was a medium density foam, because I’d used the harder ones in the gym and they’re evil – good evil but not something I’d want to use all the time.  The one in the image is identical to mine.

Foam rolling has a posh name; SMR meaning Self Myofascial Release.  Essentially, it’s like having a massage without paying for a therapist every day to help get blood flowing through your muscles, relieves soreness as well as stiffness.  It’s good to do as part of your warm up, however I tend to use mine if I have epic DOMS, or if my back/hips are more angry than usual.  I usually stick to IT band, glutes & have recently started doing my quads.  I need to do my lats after doing some heinous dumbbell moves yesterday.

Apparently you can use them for more than just rolling to help ease muscles – however I’m not going to comment on that as, aside from using mine as a little seat from time to time, I’ve used it for its original purpose…..sort of.  I don’t do full body rolls with mine, but I have seen people do them in the gym.  I might reach the stage where I feel a full roll is necessary before training, however for now it’s my DOMS helper.

I found this pretty helpful video on Livestrong Women for a full roll:

As she says in the video:

  • It will hurt
  • Pause if you find a knot
  • Hold your form
  • Never roll over a joint

They really are evil little devices & will probably be the most “ouchy” part of your training, but you feel so much better afterwards!  I’ll be honest, I wondered what the point of them was when they were introduced to me, but I’ve never needed to question Andy’s methods; I’ll tell him he’s mean – but he always has the clients well-being in the forefront of his mind, so I do as I’m told.  I’m glad I was introduced to the evilness of foam rolling.  It’s helped SO much!

I bought mine locally from TK Maxx, but I know places like Argos, John Lewis & sports stores sell them – you could get one on-line but I prodded and poked all the rollers in store til I found one that was a good density.


Training With Prior Issues/New Injuries

I figure, that due to almost rendering myself unable to train yesterday due to massive pressure on my left side (that I ignored) it’d be prudent to make a post like this, as all of us at some point or another will suffer some level of injury that hinders our training; whether it be for a few days or a few months – it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the basics for training with injuries/issues.

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I’ll use myself as an example; I have a series of issues with my back & sometimes it can flare up & render me to an almost immobile state – over the weekend I felt my left hip beginning to burn; the first sign of more pain to come.  It must’ve been bad as I had terribly interrupted sleep on Sunday, however I still went to the gym on Monday. I was doing ok until I got to 40kg barbell squats, did one….felt a pull across my entire lower back & made a noise that may have been heard by hades himself…I heard it & I had headphones in.  TBF, should’ve know as after I walked up the stairs I could feel my hips rubbing.  Sounds gross & painful??  Yeah, it is.  Anyhoo…..I was training on my own.  SHIT!  What do I do??  The urge to run downstairs, cobble my gear together & get the fuck out of the gym was my first thought.  However, I seem to be growing as an individual, so I racked the bar & attempted to compose myself.  I managed to (while thinking lots of encouraging things) do another one before I decided that it was probably wiser to drop the weight down, so I took 10kg off & did 10 reps before deciding that it may not be wise to continue with more reps.

Because of this, I began to wonder what would I do if I’d injured myself further or if it was a new injury & I didn’t know how to deal with it. The misconception that you should rest all injuries is still pretty popular & couldn’t be further away from the truth, resting completely can cause issues along the road – sitting immobile while you heal is gonna cause hindrance as the muscles seize up over time, making recovery longer and more painful.

You can still train if you’ve broken a limb, you can still go to the gym if you’re full of cold, you can even go to the gym after breaking your nose & recovering from concussion! That last one, I did actually do.  I just made Andy aware of how I felt & whathaveyou before we began training.Which leads me to how do you know if you’re fit for the gym? I’m came up with my own little checklist:

  • Does it hurt? Pain levels can vary immensely, let’s use this scale chart:

I’ve experienced all levels based on this scale.  Monday I’d say I was at about a 2-4, at this level I’d still go to the gym. I’d probably still go to level 6, pushing it a little with 7 & above.  So, go with this.  Does it hurt? Yes. Will I be off work cos of it? No. GO TO THE GYM.

  • Will it stop me from going to work? I know I’ve already mentioned this in the pain point, but it’s worthy of another mention. If you’re still able to go to work, then you’re able to train, however you may wanna take it slowly initially depending on the level of injury.  There’s the flip side too; post op it’s probably best to steer clear of the gym for a while (I avoided the gym when I’d had a rather large tattoo session) When I broke my nose I didn’t go for the first week after it’d happened, so I guess to assess on an individual basis.  However, if you feel well enough in yourself, then as long as someone in the gym knows you’re a little ill/post op/in severe pain so they can recommend things to do to avoid hurting yourself.
  • Progress or pain? This is an odd one, (I wrote some of this at work then carried on thinking about it on the cycle home & I think this was my point) Think about the pain you have – Remember the handy scale!! Now, if you’re teetering on a 7, will going to the gym hinder your progress? Yes, probably.  However, if the pain is localised to a body part that you can omit; a leg say then (imo) there’s no harm in going to the gym to do an upper body workout. Just remember if it hurts, STOP & assess the situation – can you carry on, even with a lower weight? yes, good on you – the Marines would be proud of you!
  • Is it gonna be a long-term injury? I consider my back issues to be a hindrance more than a debilitating irritation; however I received some interesting reading material to my work email today that suggests my back issues are worse than I thought, but I digress…..I have friends that are trying to regain strength after months of limited training due to needing bones pinning back together & extensive physio sessions. I have had my fair share of physio & I guess my issue is long-term too, seeing as how I’ve dealt with it since my twenties.  It was only when I started training with Andy that I learned how much of a complication it has been on my body, my left side is completely shot.  I say is because I still have a deficit that I’m trying to correct (I’ve blogged about this annoyance before)  What I will say though is that any progress is STILL progress! no matter how small, take the little victories! Did two more reps than before? Fantastic! Could lift a slightly heavier weight? Incredible!  Recovery takes time & it’s frustrating, but I refer back to the previous point; going too fast because you wanna catch up to the beautiful people will only make your journey more of a struggle in the long run.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO EAT! Oh, I’m not feeling too well, so I won’t have lunch or I’m not training today so I don’t need as much protein. Right? Wrong! I learned this the hard way. I started to do barbell squats; my first lot were going pretty well, then the following session I went to do them again & couldn’t.  During a conversation with Andy he explained my body hadn’t recovered from the last session, or my lurgy (I had a cold when I started BB squats) and that was why I couldn’t lift the weight. I was really annoyed with myself cos I thought I was doing ok, but I wasn’t.  I’ve since made a conscious effort to eat better & it’s definitely paying off dividends in the gym!