Tag Archives: women

Glutton for Protein

Yesterday was leg day, today was cardio strength day, and tomorrow will likely be forced rest due to poor planning. This sounds like a terrible remix to Rebecca Black’s song Friday.

On the topic of punishment… (it is a bad song, get it?!) my sky high levels of enthusiasm have brought me to the lows of accumulated pain and suffering. Some may call it delayed onset muscle soreness. I rode the subway home from work and it got me thinking why there is no “leg day” preferred seating. Instead I just hung on like everyone else who I assume had NOT just done legs. It’s cool, though- I understand Rob Ford has bigger issues.

What was most painful was leaving the subway station and climbing up 6 flights of stairs. It felt like I was trying to climb the rope in gym class all over again. Except this time I had no legs. And everyone else in the class was Indiana Jones.

If my weight is down tomorrow morning then I have to take the day off… my body fat is getting so low that when I tuck my iPod into my shorts, it just falls through to the ground. Or! I could buy new shorts and workout!

When I embarked on this haphazard quest of rehabilitation turned bodybuilding (apparently), I really never thought that eating would be the hardest part. Don’t get me wrong, none of this is too easy, but the next time someone complains how hard it is to lose weight I will absolutely throw the most scientifically educated hissy fit.

Gaining muscle is no walk in the park. You can lose weight by literally walking in the park.

What I have learned is to build size you need to eat. Put on those special pants you save for Thanksgiving and power down some protein and some carbs and then knock back some water. Repeat until exhaustion of your body, lack of food, or loss of hand-eye coordination. Hello meat sweats, my old friend.

Embrace your inner glutton- in a preferably protein specific way. I am playing a little loose with the word glutton.

Lately, my workouts have all been feeling like they are forearm specific since I can’t grip the weight that my other body parts can move. I tried using foam grips which were too big for my hands and that really worked against me. Lesson learned. So I have been warning all the guys that I am planning to try gloves and then I make them promise they won’t make fun of me. They all say they won’t, but I know they are taking this advanced notice to prepare their heckling.

I will be too busy eating to pay attention to them anyways.

Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy protein and that is almost the same thing. Back to eating!

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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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Women’s Rights

Be warned: this might turn into a rant.

Today was my last day working out in London while I was home to visit family. While the gym I was temporarily using does offer a women’s only area, I didn’t think twice about it before heading out to the gym floor. The main gym is hardly co-ed as it was filled with guys working out in small groups and walking around like they expected girls to ask for their autographs. If you aren’t looking at them then they will stare you down in the mirrors until you do. These guys just reinforce why women deserve a private area to wear their stretchy pants.

At my gym in Toronto, there is no option for a women’s only area. The ladies who don’t feel comfortable in front of the men are relegated to stick to the cardio machines, or let their attendance slowly drop off. Women brave enough to trek into the free weights risk the careful watch of creeping men or the ignorant looks from those who consider them flawless at their “gym ratting” ways. I do see the benefit of offering a separated option in a gym, but if it is done right.

The New Years resolution crowds must have got a head start on January because all of the benches were full, all of the cables were taken, and training partners were eager to step in. So I did a lap and ended up in the women’s area.

I have previously expressed my frustration at women working out differently than men (waving 2.5lb dumbbells at their reflection in the mirror) but as I entered the women’s section I realized that we are set up for it. This area was primarily cardio machines and I had to dig through a pile of mats to find the single Olympic barbell in the place (no joke). Even if you can scout out the barbell, there is no squat rack, and there were only 5 or 6 renegade plates from the co-ed section. The machines looked like they were plastic and I expected to see “Playskool” covered up somewhere. This room begs you to ride an elliptical from any of the endless aisles of cardio that dominate the space, and overlook the mess in the corner (attempted “free weight” section).

Let’s give women some cables and some benches, and some direction as to what would be most valuable to women in the gym. As much as I appreciated being alone with the free weights, it was ridiculous how many women were just doing steady state cardio. Hey, who knows, maybe they are training to become long distance elliptical riders in which case I support their training. In all fairness, maybe they are just doing a cardio day. I know from working in a gym that too many women neglect resistance training, and I am just trying to make a point here. Check out what I wrote earlier (not in a rant): Annie Get Your Guns.

Women are absolutely different than men and this does require some minor changes in training, however, this does not mean in any way that a woman is restricted from going heavier than 5lb dumbbells. Next time you see someone who has a body similar to your “goal self”, ask them how they got there. I would be shocked if anyone said “mindless hours of cardio!” I am not biased at all…. however I have science on my team.

The best advice I can give someone (over blog): get a trainer for a short period of time and learn all you can. Ask lots of questions and pay attention. Show up early, warm up on your own, and cool down on your own. Then follow their advice!!

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Baby Got Back

I like to consider myself inquisitive; second guessing or over analyzing may also apply.

Whatever the case may be, I can’t help but question my race preparation. Maybe I’ve done this enough times to just let it happen, and I am more ready than I let myself think. Or maybe I’m off the trail without a GPS. In my opinion, a big part of preparation is motivation. As much as my posts may be demonstrating brain waves that seem to zig zag and curve at will, I have the firm stance that motivation and “grit” (for lack of a better word) can trump inherited athleticism. Not always, but always possible. Maintaining that drive is race preparation.

I have pictures, mottos, quotes, sayings; motivational images of all sorts saved to my computer. I see where I want to be, I get motivated, I get excited, and I get my shoes on. When I need that pump up I am running alone, and what never comes to mind is some image I flipped by on my laptop.

Is motivation justified by getting out and running? Or does it mean we have to post about it on our social media, fill our closets with bright and flashy shoes, and finish runs with a slow motion water bottle chug? If you’re reposting images of others exercising behind a Starbucks latte and a snuggie, I struggle to tie that to motivation. That is promotion.

Does being driven and invested only manifest itself in a way that would mean living by the standards of carbo loading, electrolyte refueling, and IT band massaging? It can be an internal conflict to maintain motivation, but isn’t that normal because sport can be a painful passion after all. At this point, I will trust in my comfort zone and my ‘fly by the seat of my running shorts’ training style and see where my feet take me. Hopefully the end point is out of my comfort zone as that is the most encompassing way I can define success right now.

I have to admit that I feel a level of preparedness in the chaos that is my body trying to navigate the world. Maybe once you accept that your strategy is mayhem, you can relax and brush off all these events that don’t seem to support the end goal. This is a strategy, I swear. I am still moving therefore I am still progressing.

After my Canadian Thanksgiving with the family, today was my first day back to the gym after my back attack. Once again, there was so much genuine concern for me that I think I will just start sitting out front and ringing a bell with a  donation box. I started my new (and it darn well better be) improved rehab program. I am working towards square one and I will get there when I get there. On paper, this workout would have appeared that it was for someone who had lost their left arm and left leg and was hitting the gym for the first time. Let me tell you that this, coupled with my nicknames like Hop-along, and Limp Biscuit, are not ideal ways to sell myself as a trainer. Live and learn.

My fantastic nickname- creating co-workers do help me out, though. They all had ideas to contribute for how to best fix my back but my small and weak muscles fatigued before I could accept all their help. I am hopeful that it won’t take too long to regain some balance but it is hard to activate half my back throughout the day. When the weak side fatigues, exercise becomes detrimental because I’m jacking up the jacked side. Keep in mind I teach exercise for a living. Having experienced one potential outcome of a muscle imbalance, I am pretty eager to avoid that road again. Deep tissue massages and I will be best friends forever.

At this point, I have no strategy. I do, however, know what shoes I will wear. And I feel like that might be enough because I know I can get myself to the start line (with shoes on). And once we are all lined up in wait, we are all equal, and it is anybody’s day. Who worked the hardest to get to the start line, who can translate that into energy in the race… and then who can carry me home…?

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Eyes on the Prize

This strategy of listening to my body seems to be paying off for me. I have spent most of my time with weights in the gym, doing my shoulder exercises, and foam rolling until I’m nauseous and what do you know; I just ran a 25:05 on a 5km route.

Previous runs have been faster, less physically and mentally painful, and much more effortless. But this feels so much more rewarding. Today is a victory for me… despite the fact I’m going to miss all of Sunday football. Again.

This is what I needed. My goals keep changing and my body keeps changing and I keep moving towards wherever I am going. I don’t think of myself as inconsistent or not committed, but I have changed so much in the past year that I am just adapting as my standards and ideals change. I am consistent because I listen and respond to my body.

Post- race will be another big re-evaluation for me because I haven’t completely stressed myself out with life changing decisions yet. Close but not quite. Running will never be abandoned as it always steps up in my life when I need it but I can be unbiased enough to recognize that my body responds best to other forms of training. After my run today I was rewarded with sharp knee pains and overwhelming tightness in odd places showing me a flash forward to my future as a crippled old woman. In a wheelchair. With all my trophies piled on my lap.

To earn today’s pops, cracks, and twinges I ran a time I’m actually happy with. I said I would be happy if I go under 25 flat when I race and I’m pretty darn close. What makes me happiest is how close I came to quitting and how hard I worked to keep going. Few experiences match the high of a solitary maximal effort. No one knows where my route ends and no one will make me run until I barf, except me. I did what I set out to do (and I kept everything down).

I have to admit: this is the first time I have run a full 5km since… probably over a year ago? And yes I am racing a 5km in 3 weeks; it is a weird training style absolutely. But my body didn’t feel like it could do it before, so I didn’t make it. This could have backfired and (knock on wood) could still work against me. But how can some pre-planned workout schedule know how my legs will feel, what my terrible schedule will allow, or adjust to where my head will be at. I don’t know even know these things. My body won’t advance in regularly timed intervals so neither will my program.

After my run, I texted one of my good friends who I used to sell running shoes with (think dream team style). He is a fantastic athlete and all of his times blow mine out of the water, yet he has this amazing enthusiasm for my modified distances and increased times. Sure enough, he follows up to my run time with a link to a race in support of a donkey sanctuary, where my time would have placed me as the first female. A donkey shaped trophy would really add to my apartment but running and being supported is rewarding enough.

Maintaining commitment to anything is worthy of reward but committing to something, working hard, and seeing progress is a reward in itself and I can’t promote that enough. That is probably why I work in fitness? Or maybe it is because I just like a career that lets me spend the day in stretchy pants.

Feeling rewarded, motivated, and supported; the countdown to race day is on.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   -Theodore Roosevelt

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If The Shoe Fits: Buying Running Shoes

Today I was cleaning my apartment and I realised how everything just fits in around my shoe collection. More stilettos, wedges, and flip flops than anyone ever actually needs. But when it comes to shoes, how can we really put a number on what need really means?

Then there are the running shoes.

Yesterday I had to make a few embarrassed apologies to strangers at the gym after taking off a pair of shoes and having their odor take down everyone within a ten foot radius. Explaining your best runs and fastest times in the shoes doesn’t count as an apology. Apparently. So what is with this inability to let go of my shoes once they have been run into the ground (literally and figuratively)?

Some days I swear all my power comes from my shoes. Walking into a room wearing sky high stilettos is empowering and I hold myself back from pushing people out of my way to do my best runway walk. Just like certain garments, all of my running shoes have memories. Maybe I ran a personal best in them or maybe they were the pair I was wearing when I made up my mind on some big life decisions. They could be the shoes from the last run from my last house, or the first run 8 weeks after surgery. I’m not sure everyone has this type of relationship with their footwear but I would like to offer some tips if this is at all appealing. Be warned that break ups are hard.

I have too many clients that come to me with terrible footwear. Old models, lacking enough support, or even casual shoes are presented to me with the reassurance that “the guy in the store said these are the best”. I don’t know who “the guy” is, but he better hope we don’t meet. So let me help out with buying proper running shoes.

When a running magazine or a running buddy says that some new shoe is THE BEST, don’t run out to stock up on them. If one shoe was the best for everyone, they would probably have to stop manufacturing all the other thousands of styles. A writer behind a desk somewhere else in the world can’t see your feet and the article they wrote is not dedicated to you. Someone who is educated on shoes, can see your feet and listen to your goals and previous injuries is probably a better option to determine your ideal shoe. If I had a nickel for everyone who had been incorrectly convinced about their own feet I would be blogging from my retirement home in a tropical location. In a pool of nickels.

Go to a running specialty store. This is not a department store or a sports store; you can’t run other errands here. Have someone look at your feet and your gait and if they don’t- take your tootsies elsewhere.

Listen to the advice you are given. Maybe the shoes that are recommended to you aren’t the brightest or they aren’t on sale but trust me when I say that your feet are colour blind and don’t appreciate a deal like you do. I always used to say that the ugliest shoes seem to work the best and my customer satisfaction was extremely high. It isn’t science but it is pretty darn close.

Here is a quick guideline: after your next shower, walk your wet feet across a floor that shows your footprints. Hold yourself back from the model strut, just your regular walk is great. Taking a look at your trail will give you some great information; besides the fact you need to clean your floor now.

If there is no contact between the heel and ball of your foot then specify you need a neutral shoe. This means you have a high rigid arch and your foot lacks pronation (your body’s built in shock absorption) so your feet need more cushioning.

If your footprint is cavemen-esque in appearance, and there is a lot of contact under the arch of your foot then you are the opposite end of the spectrum. This means you have a lot of pronation but biomechanically, we can improve efficiency by supporting the arch. Why waste energy on internal rotation of your leg when we want to move forwards and not inwards?! Ask for a shoe with a high level of medial support.

For those of you who fit in between, congratulations on being 90% of the population. You can ask for mild to moderate support and someone else will take it from there!

These tips are all very general because your feet are all different and I can’t see any of them. So don’t think anyone else who can’t see your feet can advise you any better. Take your old shoes with you so they can see the wear patterns and tell them what you liked and didn’t like. I do not take any responsibility for any future problems regarding refusal to part with your shoes.

My next topic will be how to most efficiently organize a closet around shelves and shelves of running shoes…

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To Diet For

I found an article I really liked that I wanted to share. It is really a collection of photos that emphasize how crazy some fad diets can be.

A photographer took some great photos of diets that are not only visually stunning but mind blowing when you really think some people attempt this.

My eating habits used to be terrible, primarily because of a lack of knowledge, but I never came close to these attempted ideas of dietary intake. Now that I am more educated in nutrition, and I have a Cooking Basics for Dummies cookbook, I have come to appreciate that we need variety and we need a lot of food to function optimally (especially with exercise)! After many years of misguided unnecessary carb loading I have a strong love for protein and I will tell anyone who will listen!

I can’t believe people can impose these strict and nonsensical guidelines on themselves… haven’t we proven that a well rounded diet and exercise are the only true ways to achieve health? Maybe these pictures can help. If not, I have a link to a great article on poop for a different perspective….

If your diet cuts more things out than it allows or if it only consists of orange items… you might need an adjustment.

Check out all the photos at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/23/214912007/fad-diets-will-seem-even-crazier-after-you-see-this?ft=1&f=1128

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Weights to Mates

Observe; the muscular man attracting a mate in his natural habitat.

He sees the weights he wants and quickly advances towards them. He maintains eye contact to make clear his desires yet acts casual as best as he can by walking with a swagger. Once he has claimed his irons he can take as much time as possible to check his phone, watch his reflection, and speak softly to himself in his best tough guy voice. Timing must be precise so that women may be safely distracted by his masculinity, as determined by the size of the weight he has chosen. A male specimen who is not as strong as the others must make up for his lacking bicep circumference by extra bold clothing color selections or obscenely loud music with his headphones. The female may notice one of these secondary characteristics.

Now it is time to lift these weights; form and function are irrelevant. The sound of the effort is most significant, as the male grunts with each repetition. Grunts may be replaced by yells, words, or curses as long as they can be heard throughout the gym. The more attention he can attract the better as his admirers look on. Other males stare with looks of disdain as he beats his chest by letting the weights fall as loudly as possible. Now he must strut the gym floor to show his dominance by the swagger in his walk. If a suitable female has not approached him, he must continue. If a potential mate has been met with eye contact, he can retreat to a quieter exercise to let another male make his presence known. This will repeat until a mate is found or until the male concedes protein shakes for beers and search for a female that doesn’t squat.

For the record, a lot of my friends are big guys who lift heavy, grunt loud, swear a lot, and slam the weights. I wrote this after a session with one of my clients where there were many men being extra loud and we laughed as they tried to outdo each other. The gym really is a place to attract attention to your physical strength and I see guys hitting on girls all the time this way (the other way around too of course)! National Geographic should be looking into this, really.

'Pain And Gain' - Film Set

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The Start of Something Good

To rebuild something implies that you want to replicate what existed before. I am not rebuilding but I am recreating. An upgraded model you could say.

Too many injuries ago, I would rehab the problem and pick up right where I left off. My life plan once involved getting into rehabilitation but after many years of physio for chronic issues and a brief stint working in rehab, I changed my mind. Or rehab changed my mind for me.

Too much emphasis is placed on the injury, and yes you read that right. The underlying issue of a knee pain is rarely a knee problem, but instead an issue with the hip, IT band, or maybe misalignment. Or maybe the ankle. Or could be the back and something overcompensates and the pain pops up in the knee. Too many aspects of rehab have blinders on. So if you have chronic pain, there is hope for you: try something else. If you haven’t looked further than the source of pain, then you haven’t even started.

Although my most recent injuries to rehab were not my fault (for once), I am starting from square one and overhauling this mess I’ve got going on. During my last workout another trainer asked me what I was working on and without hesitation or smile I said “my back- but just the right side”. He laughed and walked away probably to go flex at his reflection. I actually meant what I said though.

As a long time model for scoliosis, my back never looked like an anatomy textbook. It looked like I got hit by an SUV. Then I did get hit by an SUV. Flexing the muscles in my back are great as a party trick or maybe for a booth in a traveling circus but for promoting myself as a personal trainer not so much. (I would post a photo but I rated this blog as PG). This imbalance feeds into all my other problems so I will focus here and build on that. Upgrade in progress.

If something isn’t working then stop and try something else. There is nothing wrong with learning through trial and error particularly with our bodies. You just need to trust your body will tell you what it likes and doesn’t like and you need to listen and respond. Building a strong base for your fitness is most important (literally and figuratively) and this will reduce injuries and keep you hard at work in the gym.

So tomorrow is another (right side) back day. A big shout out to all my asymmetrical friends putting in a workout tomorrow too!

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Fit is It

A woman’s physical presentation is an often discussed and carefully analyzed topic. I consider myself very aware of the double standards, the unrealistic expectations, and the issues for our daughters. Despite my education on the topic, I had a wakeup call today that I need to think a little more critically.

I went to buy a pair of jeans and took two into the change room. The first pair was a size smaller than I normally get- it is the end of the week and so my brain only functions sporadically. I thought “these won’t fit” but of course I started hiking them on. But they buttoned up? I was legitimately too excited about these jeans. Or sorry, excited about the size of these jeans. I tried on the other pair in my normal size but found I was going to need a few weeks of hamburgers to make them work. I was giddy to drop a size as I did my victory dance that is usually reserved for actual victories.

How exciting right? Well not really because then my brain started working again.

I am healthy and my weight is very proportionate to my height. So going down a pant size is actually not ideal considering my fitness goal of building muscle. I have been trained so well to celebrate a smaller number on the tag that it took delayed conscious analysis to see the stupidity. Then I didn’t want the pants, but it is getting cold and I like to wear pants. How is it possible that my gut reaction and my conscious thoughts are so conflicting?

I have been doing some reading (and the processing has been slow apparently) about the new trend of “strong is the new skinny” ads. I will be honest and admit I have one of these saved on my computer. I liked the way the model looked and I find visual goals to be motivating. After an article prompted me to pay more attention, I started reading more reactions from others.

Let’s acknowledge that strong means many things and it is entirely subjective. The issue to be discussed is that these models are by most definitions skinny. If strong means clean and jerks like female weightlifters then yes these ads are gross misrepresentations and nothing else. If strong means having muscular definition and the ability to train at a high intensity then these women are likely very strong.

I don’t want to preach what people should do with their bodies, particularly because the capabilities of the human body are nearly endless. My opinion is that we should endorse this trend of women’s fitness and appreciate the transition (however slow it may be) from the beauty ideals of visible ribs and spaghetti noodle limbs. These ads are trying to convey an image of sexiness which is a woman who is healthy and fit.

Opinions on “strong is the new skinny” being irrelevant, we need to keep topics like this in debate. Although the ad could be more accurate to display a woman with more size to her, I think the fact that fitness, muscular definition, and women’s health are being promoted is moving in the right direction. What is most important is that we can recognize the standards of women in advertising and the beauty of real women. If you define strength with building muscle then yes, being a smaller size is counterproductive and misleading. If strength is getting through the day without fatigue then that will result a completely different body type.

I am going for fit and whatever size that makes my body. Maybe I will go back up another pant size or maybe I won’t- but I will do my victory dance for only the right reasons.

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