Sunday, August 31, 2014

Progress, and Plan Z

Finally some good news!  It was skinfold analysis day-- which is a pretty horrible experience when you aren't where you want to be.  But this time wasn't nearly so horrible as the last time.  Maybe because I had survived it once and knew what to expect. Or maaaaaybe because I lost 7% body fat since the last time!  He-who-trains showed me how to calculate the numbers, and had me do it. When I looked at the number, I thought I had done something wrong. I was expecting 1-2%. I'm beyond thrilled! Especially with this four month plateau nonsense.  But maybe that isn't as bad as I thought it was either, because despite being in a calorie reduced state, I've actually gained four pounds of muscle. (Which is crazy weird... that's only supposed to happen when you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain...confirmed by He-who-trains and the gignormous-book-of-all-things-training. Also weird because I'm not really shrinking in size.)  So even though it feels like nothing has happened, apparently my body hasn't been totally uncooperative.

I've been away from gluten and sugar (seriously... even surviving drinking my coffee black... I'm kinda proud of that one!) for four days now.  I'm not keeping a pure Whole30 because I'm still counting calories and weighing myself, but I'm keeping the food rules.  (Except my protein powder which is made from Whey, but there's are a few good reasons to keeping it in.)  My belly has shrunk, my knees and back are feeling much better (even with the running that's become part of my life), and I'm down four pounds in a few days.  I'm not craving sugar, which is surprising given how few carbs I'm eating and how much exercise I've been doing.  Prior to skin fold analysis day's learnings,  I whined about this plateau to He-who-trains and we both kind of agreed that it seemed like we had tried most everything.  But he came up with a last ditch effort to wake my body up that involves 1200 calories a day, and two workouts a day.  In the mornings, it's run a lap, then walk a lap with burpees and pushups at intervals throughout each lap.  And I do that for an hour.  Then in the afternoon, it'll be my regular weight training routine. I've not had a 1200 calorie day with both workouts, but I've had a day with each one.  I'm sure he's right when he tells me it's going to be brutally hard.  After all, this is pretty much what he did when he was in the cut-a-palooza phase for the final weeks leading up to bodybuilding competitions. He keeps telling me how mean I will be, but that it is the only way he knows to help me break through this sticking point. Right now though, aside from a few minutes of feeling kinda blah, I actually feel pretty good.  After the initial few days, I seem to always feel less hungry when I eat less, so I am hoping that pattern keeps up. In all the times I've dropped calories like this, I've never trained like I am now.  We'll see how chipper I am in a couple of days!

But hey, even if it's pretty horrible, I'm encouraged-- that my body isn't pitching as bad of a temper tantrum as I thought, that my injuries are starting to feel better.  Besides, every day I make it kind of makes me feel like a rockstar in the "Yes, I really, really, really, do want this" department.  I feel like the boss of my body when I don't give into cravings or mental whining.  Oh, I want the rock hard body-- but I won't lie.  Feeling like, at least for right now, I have a rock hard spirit that refuses to quit is kind of awesome too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Whole 30, Whole me?

I keep hearing expressions like "You can't out train a bad diet" and "abs are made in the kitchen" but for a while, I've wondered exactly what those things meant.  I mean I get the fact that if I go home and eat a meaty, greasy, cheesy, gooey pizza after leaving the gym, and then chase it with a bag of doritos and have ice cream for a night cap, I probably won't see the results I want.  But I am beginning to wonder if a diet can be healthy and still not be what is right for your body.  I watch my calories and my macronutrient ratios and even very particular things like my sodium/potassium and calcium/magnesium ratios. I don't eat a lot of crap.  I eat cheat meals, but they aren't often, and they are usually planned in advance.

But still my body is holding on to weight.  (Yeah, that weight loss I was so excited about a week or so again? Came back.  Which means that I am STILL plateaued.  Uh.  Since April.  Not cool, body, not cool.) And there seems to be a lot of inflammation in my body, which I'm thinking is part of this plaguing low back nonsense that just won't stop.  He-who-trains has mentioned several times that he thinks the Cortisol Effect is sabotaging me, and blames all my life stress.  But I'm under considerably less stress than I have ever been before.  We both expected the weight to just start falling off.

And I am getting more and more impatient.  Yes, I have achieved a lot, and no I'm not discounting that. But my body is just flat out not cooperating. (And it did not help to stand behind my client in the mirror today, and realize that she is in much better shape than I am.  Everyone that was in the gym today has seen me from the beginning, so they get it.  But at some point, I'm going to want to work with people that are new... and I want to look like a trainer!)   I think it was Einstein that said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." I've varied my exercise routines a number of times, thinking that was what I needed.  But what I've never done, at least not since the very beginning, is completely overhaul my diet. Now that I've gotten the basics figured out, I think it may be time to do some fine tuning.  A while back several folks suggested that I might be gluten sensitive, and I got off it for a while, and dropped some weight.  Of course it came back when I started eating gluten again.  Hellloooooooo.

I've been kicking around the idea of doing a Whole 30 (Dino-chow, basically.  No dairy, no sugar, no alchohol, no soy, no grains.) I've been rereading the book that explains the science behind it It Starts with Food, and it's gotten me thinking about a lot of things. For the record, while I don't agree with everything, it's a really good read.

I have a lot of questions about how it will work for me with the intense workouts, etc but I am thinking it is worth a try. It's probably going to take several days of playing around before I can make it really work for me in its pure form, and while it could be a really hard 30 days, it might be worth it for all the things it could teach me about my body.  And maybe, it might help reset some things.

So, you know, if I'm uh... extra grouchy... throw some Dino-chow at me, and run!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gotta Start Somewhere...

Tonight was my first night functioning as a trainer.  I've corrected my workout partner's form before, but we were always partners.  But she bravely said she'd let me train her as I learned how to do this. (Which is maybe like letting someone practice drawing blood or wax your eyebrows.  Probably nothing good comes out of that, but everyone has to learn somehow.  All this to say, my "client" rocks!) I designed her workout and instead of training with her, I trained her.  I watched her form and took her through the workout and got feedback from her.  And got a look that said "You have lost your everlovin mind".  I guess that means I was doing something right, because I sure give he-who-trains that look a lot.  And he doesn't even have the decency to hide the fact that he considers that a badge of honor when I walk by, dripping with sweat,  trying not to die, and gasp out something not tremendoulsy friendly.  At least I am not that bad... yet!  I had empathy, because I knew that as soon as she was done, I was doing a version of the same workout-- and I knew I wasn't going to have any more fun than she was.  I'm not sure how she felt about me as a trainer, but I really enjoyed doing it. I'm grateful that she is willing to be my guinea pig and I think practicing on her will help me feel a lot more comfortable as I begin working with people that I don't know.  Of course, it's also a safer place for me to start, because we've been working out together for months-- I had a pretty good idea of what she was capable of doing.  Besides, trying not to die several times a week serves as a pretty good bonding experience!

When I was doing my own workout, He-who-trains (who is now training me to be a trainer) was carefully scrutinizing my form.  I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I was blowing it on an exercise.  It was my last set, and truth be told, I wasn't watching my form as carefully as I would otherwise do.  And he called me on it, saying "You're a trainer now.  People are watching.  There is no room for error."  He was right-- I'd felt it as people who normally joke around with us were watching me train my workout partner, and then do my own workout.  It was new for all of us, but they were definitely watching me in a different way.  Suddenly there is a new level of accountability to my own working out. I'm gonna have to suck it up, even when I'm fried, and be conscientious about the way I do things. I don't ever want a client to come up to me and be able to rightfully say, "But that's not how you do it."   With a few minor exceptions, being a trainer is definitely not a "Do as I say, not as I do thing."

I know I still have a lot to learn-- and will spend years mastering this craft, but I'm really excited-- and grateful for the people who are helping me get started.  Also pretty glad I didn't make my "client"  do anything awful like pass out.  That might have been a rather ominous start...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"How bad do you want this?"

One of the benefits to being an "advanced" trainee is that I usually just come in and do my workouts on my own.  My workout partner and I are trusted enough to just handle it.  If I happen to be in the gym with He-who-trains, he is usually either training someone else or doing his own workout--which means that aside from some small form corrections, he leaves me be. But last night, I had the poor timing to come in as he was just finishing up.  And even though I had a lovely "first leg day in weeks"   workout planned due to the fact that I'm still babying a grouchy back, he decided that it was a nice day to make me cry  in just a few short minutes. Well, I didn't actually cry but that was only because all of my energy was going into not dying. He had designed a BRUTAL, but very back friendly, workout for me, and he wanted to see how I did with it.

It was baaaad. It got to the point where I could no longer lift any weight, and then to the point where my own body weight was too much. But there was a point where I was doing ATG (Butt to Ground) squats on legs that felt like cooked spaghetti noodles, and quite certain that I was not physically capable of standing back up. Either he or the angry voice in my head asked a question.  "How bad to you want this?" (Come to think of it... it must've been him.  My voice would've asked how badly I wanted this. Dying is no excuse for poor grammar.) I wish I could say that the question gave me a new burst of energy and that I finished strong.  I did not.  I had to sit down because my legs could no longer support me.  I was lightheaded. I did, however, finish knowing that I held back nothing.

 I've thought about the question a lot. Do you want this enough to give it your everything? Do you want it enough to overcome your whiny voice that gives you a thousand reasons not to?  Do you want it enough to not only do it again (and again and again), but every single time to challenge yourself to be better than the last time?

Maybe that's really a life question, not just a gym question.

Sooo buying this on a shirt...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Walking the Talk

The last few weeks I have been eating badly.  There I admitted it.   There are good reasons excuses: stress, a new medication, a new schedule. Until a few days ago, I had no appetite, and sort of more or less played the "let's see how few calories my body can live on" game.  And of course, I know better. I've been doing this for almost two years.  I get it: bodies need a certain number of calories to do what they are supposed to do. Any more, and the body plumps like a lovely little (well no so much little exactly) marshmellow.  Any less, and basic body systems shut down. I KNOW!

A friend-- who is a fitness rockstar with a body to prove it-- asked me if I did myfitnesspal.  And I told her I was faithful with it until a month or so ago. She challenged me to add her as a friend... and... wait for it... make my food diary public.  It was late, and I was tired, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Until of course I realized that this fitness rockstar would be seeing what I ate. (The thought did cross my mind that I could lie in my food diary, but the problem is that my belly, and hips, and gluteus maximus always know the truth.)

But the only thing I hate worse than being stupid is someone knowing that I'm being stupid. And apparently that fact alone was enough to help me get back on track.

For a little while now, I've been working to become certified as a personal trainer.  The difference this has made in my life has been so huge, that I want to help other people feel good in their bodies.  Well, that, and I'm just nerdy enough that I'm completely fascinated by the  human body. But mostly, the good health thing. I'm really close to being certified, and I'm starting to think about what I'll as I take on clients of my own. The gargantuan-all-things-training-book, Volume I (seriously, that's how it has felt as I've trudged through the material) made a good point that part of my credibility as a trainer comes from the lifestyle I lead.  He-who-trains has spent a fair amount of vocal energy talking about "walking the talk." (Which comes up in an irritating variety of conversations, including my as yet unbroken terrible posture habit. Seriously, if you know me in real life... please tell me to stand up straight if you see me slouching like a 95 year old woman.)

As a trainer, I will want my clients to believe me when I say that the way they eat is every bit as important as what they do in the gym.  I will help them learn to eat well, but in order for them to trust me, they need to know that I do it too.  Sure, there are cheat meals, and we can talk about that, but that's the exception and not the rule.  Some days, your body needs more, like on the super-duper-nasty Leg Day I just had, but that's a springboard for conversation. So, in effort to model the lifestyle I hope my clients will choose,  my diary is out there for all the world to see.

I'm walking the talk.  Metaphorically, until I regain normal functioning in my legs. Then I'll walk. And talk.  And definitely walk the talk. (But probably not walk and chew gum.)  My... errr... plate is an open book.

Post Awful Leg Day Face...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Movin on... down!

After an ugly 4 month plateau, I'm finally dropping weight again! Just 25 more to my initial goal.  And for the record, can I just say that I'm getting really tired of having to move bags of flour every time I cook?  But I keep reminding myself that that's what its like to carry around more weight than my body needs. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stress and Bubble Wrap

I was sitting on the couch a few days ago, icing three separate injured body parts when I decided to catch up on the lastest issue of Runner's World.  (Despite the fact that I am not a runner, I still have aspirations.  And I feel more like an athlete for reading such magazines.)  The title "Stress Recess" caught my eye, because stress is a concept with which I'm unfortunately on a "curl up and cuddle with" basis.  Despite years of sort of off and on trying, I've never gotten a handle on it, and it's wreaked havoc in my body in a number of fairly serious ways.  (I wrote about it here a while ago.)
I know cortisol plays a huge role in weight loss.  I know that despite the good in can serve in a fight-or-flight time, that it can also have some seriously nasty effects.

I knew that over training can produce cortisol, and I knew that cortisol is catabolic, meaning it can cause the breakdown of protein in muscles.

But even though I knew all of this, what I read in the article caught me off guard:
 "For the most part, running is touted as a mental tonic.  Research has shown that [it] helps keep granule neurons in the brain from firing, making you better able to deal with anger, anxiety or grief, the negative emotions referred to, collectively as stress. But there's a flip side.  Research also indicates taht running during an especially rough life patch can make you more susceptible to stress and even injury...Excess cortisol can have harmful effects on bone density and can make you tense up.  Run stiff and you're more likely to strain a muscle or tweak a joint... Serious stress over a long period of time can distract a person to the point that he doesn't notice or pay enough attention to what is happeing to his body."
A few months ago I had a nasty low-back injury that required massaging and chiropractic help and two weeks away from the gym-- and it was in a period of very high stress. And now all these seemingly unrelated injuries (though I'm learning that things are rarely as unrelated as they appear) that are forcing me to rest when I'd really like to go as hard as I can are also in a crazy-high stress period.  I'm guessing if these things happen to runners under high stress, they happen to wanna-be bodybuilders under high stress too.  And if it can happen to athletes, I'm betting it can happen to anybody in such a stressed-out state.

A few weeks ago, a friend was telling me what things were like for her after her husband died. She knew that I had a lot going on and she gave me a word of parting advice: "Be careful."  When I looked at her oddly, she continued, "Be careful with your body. I would walk down the street and just fall, and I was constantly running into things.  Things are off, and what's going on in your mind will affect your body."

Instead of marketing all sorts of useless things to stressed out people, someone should get really smart-- and offer discounts on mass quantities of Bubble Wrap. It will keep people from hurting themselves when they inadvertently walk into walls or fall on their face.  And double bonus, when it's safe to take off the Bubble Wrap-- think of all the fun to be had! You're welcome.