Tag Archives: health

Hamster Ball

It has been a long time since I last wrote without the purpose being work, school, or dictionary- length to do lists.

So once again I come back to my blog, my old friend who I have been avoiding only for productivity related reasons, I swear. It’s not you, it’s me.

My workouts are still going, and my running is still going,

I am less than a month away from a 5km race that I signed up for after running for three 2- minute intervals and it seemed liked a good idea. It must have been the runner’s high. As of now I have one 5km run under my belt in a time of 26:07. At least I’m not risking over training and burning out.

My post- surgery PB is 24:32 so that is my ultimate goal regardless of what my physio might tell you. I’ve got a ways to go but I’ve learned to never doubt what your legs can do on race day. Or maybe the lesson is to never doubt what your heart can make your legs do.

The weather in Toronto is still anti- running (says my inner 80 year old) and as much as I’ve always boycotted “riding the treadmill”, after several months of doing my best my hamster in a ball impression on said treadmill, I’m finding it hard to drag myself out in the blasting wind and freezing temperatures. Apparently missing outdoor runs has aged my attitude about weather by a few decades. Very fitting, as it now matches my 80 year old perspective on… pretty much everything else.

April is a good time to re-evaluate your fitness goals for the year that you probably set in January with the best intentions but then forgot about at the first sight of cake. It is time to get out your thesaurus in an attempt to make your goals sound different than the unaccomplished attempts of January and get back on the horse. Or hamster ball, as the case may be.

There is still a lot of 2015 to come; keep your eyes on the prize, my friends.

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Lattés and Timbits

Last week during a training session I asked my client what he had eaten that day. Specifically, I wanted to know what he had for protein. He immediately responds with “I had a Starbucks latté…” then seems to shrug off everything else as incomparable.

Honestly, I tell myself that these responses are attempts to delay the impending workout because they require me to rant about food. That also helps to convince me I am not terrible at my job.

I actually laughed off the conversation a little because that client is a huge success story of mine. Yes there is milk in a latté, and yes there is protein in milk. I will acknowledge that and move on.

However, I may have to rethink my self- consolation now, because it seems another one of my clients follows the same dietary plan.

My client, M, comes strolling in almost 10 minutes late for a session with a big smile on his face and one hand rubbing his Buddha belly. I asked him why he was late and he said “Oh sorry, the line at Tim Hortons was really long”.

Not another one.

M is still wiping his face as he starts warming up and of course I have to ask him what he ate. With a big smile he tells me he “crushed” a chicken sandwich, a ten pack of Timbits (for all you non-Canadians, these are heavenly little bite sized cakes) followed by TWO extra large coffees with two creams and four sugars each. Let me put my disgusted facial expression into facts. These two extra large coffees alone contain 48 oz of coffee which is about 480 mg of caffeine. Health Canada recommends no more than 400 mg in one day and any more than this can result in insomnia, nervousness, elevated heart rate, muscle tremors, and irritability. He pretty much maxed out how much his liquid bladder can hold and how much stress his heart can take then came to workout.

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I spent the whole hour expecting to see this whole meal again. I would have been happier if it had come up, really. I am a good Tim Horton- loving Canadian and I have also been guilty of overindulging, except my version doesn’t make a dent in this “light, pre- workout meal”.

The first exercise we did, M says “watch this” and with each rep he would yell “one Timbit, two Timbits, three Timbits” until he had “burned off” all ten. He followed up with “this set brought to you by Tim Hortons”. As we go on to the next exercise, he informs me that we will be burning off the chicken sandwich next. This was all scientifically based on the order the food was eaten, of course.

I spent the rest of our workout trying to convince him that he hadn’t burned off that meal, while he tried to convince me that he effectively covered all the food groups. Let me add the disclaimer that M has lost about 60 pounds so far and has about 60 to go.

A few hours later I receive this text: “I just saw a fitness ad that says would have to do 20,000 sit-ups to lose 1 pound of belly fat. Thanks a lot Tim Hortons”.

Lessons to be learned: There is indeed too much of a good thing. Size matters. Listen to your trainer. In the end, you can’t out train a bad diet.

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Back For More

It has been way too long since I have posted anything. Full time work, part time work, and full time school do that I guess. Sorry to admit that I would rather be known for being a hard worker than for my blogging consistency. I’m back on track now I swear.

I have another MRI on my knee tonight, however my limited (non- existent) background in medicine makes me think my knee is almost good to go. If you are going to tear a ligament, it looks like this is the one to go for. My theory is that it was on the verge of tearing since the car accident, so my body is used to functioning without much support from it. There is a knee surgeon who works out in my gym and yesterday I picked his brain a little. I asked if he would recommend operating on a torn MPFL and after seeing my leg day he thought I was crazy to consider surgery. He told me that he does full knee replacements and so would not be the surgeon for me, to which I replied that I probably should get a spot on the waiting list now. By age 26, I have worn my knees out to Bambi status, and I am banking on robotic body parts being available soon. This is not a complaint because I’d rather use my body up than be laying on my death bed commenting on my joint fluidity.

I hope the afterlife has squat racks.

On that glorious note, I took off my knee brace for Monday’s workout. It was terrifying, exciting, and significantly reduced the smell of my workout. Someone should invent braces that come with built in fans like they have for those mascot costumes. When I instructed a running group at my previous job, my “smelly knee brace” had a more wide- spread reputation than I did. I think it made people run faster so they wouldn’t get caught downwind. Whatever it takes to make them run.

When I was working out, I kept looking in the mirror trying to figure out how far I am from my body about four months ago before my kneecap dislocated and my hopes, dreams, and body weight came crashing down. I temporarily felt disheartened to realise I am in a permanent state of re-building, until I realised that everyone in the gym is there for the same reason. Sure, some of us do it with a sickness of going until we cramp up into a sweat-soaked mess but everyone has the goal of change.

Still being warped is frustrating because I have been struggling to increase weights and still maintain good form in my workouts. My hips are out of alignment, and my spine is curved so my back is still imbalanced. I guess I just got a little too comfortable and when I feel comfortable, I am not aligned, and every other body part dominoes along into my personal take on anatomical structure. Doing high volume and low weight workouts is working well for me though and I love the change of stimulation. I would absolutely recommend adding this phase into your workouts (depending what your goals are) because 4 sets of 30 reps isn’t easy on anyone.

If your workout isn’t mentally hard, it probably isn’t physically hard enough.

Getting motivated and back at it.

I think this is Abraham's greatest quote.

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You’re Always a Day Away

“I’ll start tomorrow, I’ll start tomorrow”; the mantra of the unmotivated, the lazy, and the people who “can’t make time”.

And I will start tomorrow.

My plan was to go out last night, come home early, and start a final month of clean eating, specific training, and sleeping enough (which is elusive on a daily basis). It was all laid out until I revealed to my friend that it was my last night drinking for the next month and I was the target of her mission to party hard. We met somewhere in the middle and shared a little wine, however it left me today saying, “I’ll start tomorrow”.

Today (on second thought) I decided that my priority was relaxation and did I ever conquer that. Except for the fact that I was watching March Madness and got three more of my picks wrong. Besides that, I did rest not stress and I think this is an even better way to start my last month of training. Let me just be clear that the last time I took nearly an entire day off was… almost 4 months ago. It was Christmas holidays and  a week of parties with my family is hardly actual rest.

After spending most of my day horizontal I am even more excited to run hard and lift heavy tomorrow. So maybe there can sometimes be some validity to waiting until tomorrow.

Mondays were made for fresh starts!

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Ch-ch-changes

The worst thing we can do to ourselves is get too comfortable. Despite my lack of philosophical insight or all-knowing wisdom, I speak based on experience.

We underestimate our capabilities and overestimate how ideal repetition seems to be. I doubt that anyone laying on their death bed would say, “I regret all those times I tried something new”. It is hard to look back on a year, month, or even a week, and feel like your feet are in the same place wearing down footprints in the ground. Our footprints should be spaced far and barely leaving a mark before the next one is planted.

Today, D and I worked out at a different gym. New faces, new equipment, completely different atmosphere, and most importantly- new people to race on the treadmills. Even though we are going from one gym to another gym, it allows enough fresh air and change of scenery to clear your mind. Because nothing clears your mind like body odor and the sound of weights crashing, am I right?

This was a great time in discomfort, just in a small scale, one day type way. Finding new things, trying new things, and accommodating this with strangers’ schedules are all things that should happen daily. I found it really surprising that even as a trainer, I was intimidated at times. Maybe it was because I spent a lot of time wandering to see where everything was or maybe it was because I was the only female not doing cardio. I ended up doing deadlifts just right in the middle of the gym since the racks were taken and I wasn’t sure where to go to be out of the way.

As a bonus, today was the first day I saw what happens when steroids go bad but that is a whole other story.

This is about more than just fitness.

I am itching to be uncomfortable.

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Gravity

Gravity goes sideways in the gym.

It is like I can’t control my head cocking to the side when I see some people working out.

Everyone starts somewhere, as my mom and I were just discussing. You just can’t know how to do something when you first start, it is that simple and that difficult. People stroll from one machine to the next, casually looking at the pictures and doing just enough reps to not get too tired.

Just like gravity, there are certain things you can always count on in the gym…

It is leg day and there are two squats racks. One will have several times your body weight in plates loaded onto the bar. Sometimes the person here can actually squat it but probably not. Either way, you can’t work in because the workout will be changing the plates. The other squat rack: someone curling the barbell. This gives me a Hulk-esque rage but unfortunately not the strength (which I would use to remove this person from the squat rack).

If you know what you’re doing (or if you look like you do) someone will follow your routine right behind you. This always makes me want to throw a bunch of handles behind me in a trail to throw them off. With my business card mixed in. They will always catch up to you and it will be awkward. Just get a trainer.

The talker. Every gym has one. This person has no concept of time or social cues and they thrive on those who are in a rush. Three seconds to go on your rest break? All of a sudden the talker is between you and your weights telling you about his trip to the planetarium six years ago.

We all know the guy you can hear before you can see him. He will take all of the plates in the gym to load up a barbell and be as physically loud as possible while he pounds out two reps within one quarter of his range of motion. Grand finale to follow with a smashing of the weight and a final scream,  followed by fifteen minutes of “recovery”. He earned it, just ask him.

My favourite is after work when people who aren’t really done work rush to the gym. Benches become offices as cell phones go off but there is no working in because obviously this bench is in use. How dare you interrupt a meeting.

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This list needs to mention the hunter- gatherer. This unsuspecting exerciser appears whenever it is busy or just whenever you need something. They will claim everything that is available no matter whether they can use it or not and sharing is not an option. If you ask to work in with something in their pile: “just twenty more minutes, bro”.

There are three of you in the change room. Your lockers will all be in a row. No exceptions.

No matter the distractions, they all turn into stories to share later once the rage passes.

Did I miss anything?

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Process and Progress

I am trying to upgrade my workout log from my current system; millions of loose pieces of paper scrawled with increasingly tired handwriting as the list goes on. As much as this is wasteful and inefficient, I am too OCD to make a book of partially illegible workouts. I need to come home and print them out neatly. The handwriting is definitely a good measure of how hard the workout was, though. On days when I need to really kick my butt I could look for the page where the words turn to shaky lines and there are traces of tear drops. No matter how authentic the chicken scratch on paper shreds, my personality requires tidy writing. Must be my only quirk.

Next in importance after tidy printing, I have felt the thrill of almost smashing my face in.

I am (carefully) checking off my to- do list, which not so coincidentally is identical to my “you won’t do these again” list as per my surgeon. It is with great proudness I can say I conquered a dumbbell bench press. Started with 20 pounds in each hand, and found it shockingly easy, in a relative sort of way. My spotter encouraged me to keep pounding out reps until my right arm decided it had enough and it careened its’ dumbbell towards my face.

In danger, I close my eyes and brace myself apparently. Awesome life skills. Use a spotter with quick reflexes, friends!

The only thing that remains in that no fly zone is contact sports. I won’t lie, it probably will never be crossed off that list and I’m okay with that. Contact sports will be the one time I will use my shoulder injury as an out. As much as I love thinking I have super strength, my body was not built for combat.

My swimming career is in the making now; I have been in touch with someone who will help me regain (or learn) my strokes and then I’m sure this challenge will feel much more real. Triathlon also comes with the added challenge of finding a flattering one piece bathing suit.

Just kidding.

That doesn’t exist.

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Fixed with a Flex

Today my weight was down half a pound. Not really a big deal, but that in combination with having a week that made me zombie-esque tired, I took the day off from working out. Things are still going well considering my weight is still up from the start of this week but I need to pack down some more calories before I start lifting heavy things against gravity again.

If you had told me a year ago that I would excitedly be sharing my weight gains with strangers, I would have thought that was crazy. I do like to affectionately call my blog followers my imaginary friends, so maybe I do have a little streak of weird.

I am now tracking my weight and workouts to a degree that some may have described as “obsessive”, to which I give a big thumbs up and then I flex. Next you can listen to me list a million things worse that I could be obsessed with.

While working out yesterday, D and I were getting all sorts of looks. Some were rude, and some were confused, but all felt like a really big compliment to the effort we were putting in. He said he felt like barfing, and I was holding on to machines to stay upright between my last sets while the gym- goers surrounding us were using the machines as theatre chairs, probably betting on me to go down first. I have found that in some cases, there is no bigger compliment than a dirty look. Take it in stride, and keep going. Then flex at them. After all, you don’t have success if you don’t have critics.

Ah, yes… reading that last paragraph back I now understand the obsessed descriptor.

Also, don’t bet against me.

Let me add in a very important point here: pushing to failure is a phase. When done right, these workouts are very draining, especially on the Central Nervous System and I don’t encourage this as a permanent method of training. As long as that is clear, I would like to add that there are few feelings that match the rush of knowing you worked as hard as you could, without peeing your pants.

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Tomorrow is a new day, another workout, and a chance to reach a new high. If you haven’t ever had the borderline-wet-your-pants-in-the-gym feeling then I strongly urge you to go for it, but in a safe way. Not safe like wearing Depends, but safe like working out properly. Get yourself a trainer or shoot me a message. Let’s squat and trot together, friends.

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Repeat to Failure

Lately I’ve been a little annoyed being part of a silent herd of people, anxiously traveling to their destinations at a speed that is just never fast enough. I’ve got caught up in the Toronto sidewalk mentality to want to push past whoever is in front of me and go faster. Hurry up and wait. Never have enough. Speed through life by dragging your feet.

I believe I have discovered the root of my annoyance of repetition. To be honest, I’m sure I’m nowhere near figuring myself out but here is a start.

After 2 years of working in the same gym I’ve seen the same people come in every single day and workout. This is good. They are committed and dedicated. This is good. They look identical to when they first started. This is bad.

Why are people happy with not making progress?! This is like the people who purchase sessions with a trainer and then think that they have made an investment towards their health and the hard part is over. Maybe I am so frustrated by them because I spent a long time in that place, myself. Now I want to tow everyone with me to the place where people aren’t wasting their time in such a consistent and effortful way.

I am going to switch up my program soon and focus on strength more than size. I am surprised at how much I am enjoying these bodybuilding workouts however there will come a time when that will absolutely hinder my ability to run. Also, my friends are tired of me asking them to feel my muscles. Can’t stay in one place too long!

Stop wasting your time! 🙂

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Ugly Pretty Face

True friends don’t tell you about your problems, they just help you resolve them.

Instead of D telling me that he thinks I can lift heavier (okay, so he did say this once) he offered to put me through a leg workout today. Despite being a little sleep deprived and on an overly full stomach I thought this was a great idea. I learn something new each time we work out together so I have ultimately learned to never miss a team workout.

First up was barbell squats. 3 sets of 12,10,8 reps increasing the weight with each set. I knew I was in trouble when he added 20lbs for my warm up… I mean, the barbell already weighs 45lbs, my legs will pick up on what is happening. My last set was at 25lbs a side and my last rep was spent mostly at the bottom of the squat trying to figure out how gravity suddenly increased exponentially. It was pure heart pounding pain and absolutely worth it for the feeling at the top. After my last rep of unintentional super slow motion, another trainer walked over to comment on my intensity/ express sympathy for what was to come… this was the first exercise of four.

Next up was deadlifts with the trap bar. 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps increasing weight each set. One rep in and my legs were burning. The highlight of this was dropping the 95lbs on my last rep of my last set. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I had lifted something heavy… I say that as if I didn’t already attract attention as a noisy mess of sweat.

Olympic barbell stiff leg deadlifts. I like to think if my gym had trading cards that this would be listed as my specialty. So, gratefully, I didn’t feel quite as terrible through these. I find my grip fatigues before everything else which gets frustrating. My hands are left in a gripped shape like your mittens after handing out cups at a water stop in freezing cold weather. The hardest part was seeing how much my legs were shaking in the last set. That is why when I run I gradually increase my music volume- so I can’t hear my breathing get heavier. Purely mental but definitely applicable. When you see the shake, you can’t deny the fatigue.

The grand finale was high rep low weight lunges. 30lbs, 3 sets of 20 a side, no break between, and my legs’ ability to support me standing is already questionable. Luckily for me (so I thought) D had a client show up so he couldn’t experience the pain with me. With one set left, I sat for a brief second to which I immediately heard yelling from across the gym to get back up. This guy is good. I propelled myself through the last set with loud grunts and the fear of attracting everyone’s attention yet again.

I do not consider myself to be vain but I live in what I would expect to be the vanity hotspot of Toronto, so it is all relative. After my 26 years of living, I have spent many hours looking at myself in the mirror and only today I realised that I think I look best in the last rep of my last set of my workout.

Whoever came up with the “over the shoulder glance” never lifted like this.

That face that spans pain to joy, and strength to weakness. Tyra Banks invited an “ugly pretty face” but let me tell you-  THIS is the real thing. My attraction to this feeling is that it is purely unmatched. You just cannot reproduce this face until you are deep into your workout, often with over half your body weight on your back or in your hands.

You can learn a lot about yourself in a gym. When someone with minimal body fat is telling you to not stop but everything hurts. When your knees are visibly wobble and your grip is slipping. Still with reps to go. I learned I love that place.

When the going gets tough, the tough get ugly.

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