Day 30: Breakthrough!

Arrrghh! My new method of planning and tracking my workouts is so insanely helpful, I feel stupid for not starting this sooner. Now, it’s nothing groundbreaking – by “new” I mean it’s ‘new to me’. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I had this problem. I would mentally psyche myself into going to the gym. I’d drink my protein shake, I’d get dressed, I’d put on my little nifty Under Armour headband that keeps my wild hair in check, and I’d prance off to the gym. Then I’d arrive and think, “Uhhh, Ok. Now what?!” I mean, I know my way around the gym – I was taught how to use kettle bells, free weights, battle ropes, bosu balls, etc. But something about just showing up the gym without a plan of action scrambled my brain. I’d feel lost and I’d lose my motivation.

I had another issue. I was skipping certain muscles in my workouts. I was getting comfortable with certain exercises and I unconsciously favored training certain body parts over others. Hence the difference between my rockin’ biceps and my feeble little shoulders. Lats? Didn’t even think about those since I was so worried about squatting myself to death. After all – what would you rather have? An awesome bubble butt or a well developed latissimus dorsi? Uh, huh. That’s what I thought.

Here’s my problem with focusing on a few muscle groups and ignoring others – or showing up to the gym without a plan and getting in a routine with the same old exercises time and time again:

1) Certain parts of my body are super strong, and others are noticeably weak. It affects how I move and how I lift. I’ve noticed that my push ups and pull ups are improving drastically now that I’ve implemented a shoulder & lat day. I was stuck in a rut with doing a ton of chest exercises and bicep curls – but now that all three ‘heads’ of my shoulder (anterior, lateral, posterior deltoid) are getting stronger, I’m improving in other areas, too!

2) I get burnt out! If every trip to the gym consists of the same old shit – I’m gonna quit. It quickly gets monotonous and too easy and the challenge disappears.

3) Sometimes if I was still sore from a workout the day before, I’d use that to justify a “rest day”. However, since implementing a specific schedule for my workouts, I’m able to work out more frequently! I focus on isolating certain muscle groups on certain days and I never workout a muscle that’s still sore from a previous workout. This has prevented over-training and injuries. Here’s an example of my split:

Sunday: Usually my rest day

Monday: Glutes & hamstrings

Tuesday: Shoulders & Abs

Wednesday: Chest & Triceps

Thursday: Back/Lats & Biceps

Friday: Glutes & hamstrings

Saturday: Shoulders & Abs

I sit down on Sunday and I plan out every single workout for the rest of the week. Similar to how people create meal plans. My dad used to tell me two horrible cliches over & over, just because he knew they would make me cringe: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” and “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I don’t know why those infuriated me so much when I was little, but as with most of my life lessons, I’ve learned the hard way that everything he told me when I was little is so true. It’s all about planning in advance. Dammit.

So, before I hit the gym each day, I’ve just been checking my handy dandy Google calendar on my phone – that tells me when I’m going to the gym, and what I’m going to be doing there. Then, I grab a piece of paper, draw a grid, and actually write out the exercises I’m going to do – leaving room to track the amount of reps & weight I use. These are my guidelines:

-Always include a few tried & true moves that I can do very well. They’re not “easy” – because I keep gradually increasing the weight each week – but my form is great on these.

-I research on Bodybuilding.com to find 1 or 2 new exercises I haven’t tried & I incorporate them into my workout for the day just to keep things interesting.

-I list each exercise in order. Depending on what I’m training, I’ll either work the largest muscle first (i.e., chest over tricep) or, if I’m training a certain muscle that’s particularly weak, I’ll start with that one first so I can give it my all in the beginning when I’m fresh & rested.

I throw in a few circuts or supersets or giant sets to keep it intense. Read here about supersets.

I’ll be sure to include some mountain climbers or squat jumps or burpees in between sets of weight lifting to keep my heart rate up

So, by the time I walk into the gym – I know exactly where I’m going. I know which exercises I’m going to perform and in which order. It’s such a relief!! No more guesswork. I have a clear, outlined plan that keeps me on track & makes sure that my entire body is worked throughout the week.

Sure – stupid people get in the way in the gym & I can’t always insist upon my special little schedule. Sometimes I have to be flexible (ugh). But it’s better to start with a plan than to go in empty handed.

As I work go through my workout, I list the amount of reps & sets I do, along with the weight. I keep these workouts in a binder and use them for reference. When I plan a workout for glutes today, I’m going to refer to my last couple of glute workouts and see what weights I used last time. Can I add weight today? Or can I add an extra set? If I did a warm up with 65 lbs, can I start my warm up today with 70 lbs? That way each week I’m moving forward and I know what my body is capable of – I have a written record of it! No more guessing about which weights to throw on.

Phew. This was a long post. My fingers and brain are tired now. Adios.

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Day 28: I’m Here to Chew Bubblegum & Kick Ass

bubblegum

 

First things first – if you don’t get the movie reference in the above picture you need to stop whatever it is you’re doing and go rent They Live. You can thank me later. Here’s a quick summary from Wiki: “It follows a nameless drifter referred to as “Nada”, who discovers the ruling class are in fact aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media.” So awesome.

So, as it turns out, when you work full-time and hit the gym six days a week, blogging every day is a silly pipe dream. Going to the gym is “a thing” now – it requires some planning before hand (deciding on a good split for my week & which exercises I’ll do once I get there), making sure I have my supplements ready, along with my gear: gloves, headband, towels, log book, a pen, water, lifting straps and/or ankle straps and/or barbell pad. You get the idea. But I’m all in, baby! I’m getting stronger and stronger and more comfortable doing my thing once I get in the gym. You can call me a pussy for using barbell pads and lifting gloves. That’s OK. The mere recollection of that time I left the gym with giant blisters from swinging kettlebells around and couldn’t touch anything for 3 days is a great reminder that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.

Here’s some of the stuff I’ve bought from Amazon to help me in the gym. Most gyms have equipment available to do pull-ups, squats and cable kick backs, but unless you have a seriously kick-ass gym or a personal trainer, most of them don’t provide this gear to make those exercises easier to newbies:

MummyStrength Pull Up Assist Bands (for, duh, assisted pull ups): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MH5S0VM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Barbell Pad (for doing heavy squats with a barbell):  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007W2EPK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Neoprene Padded Ankle Cuff (for cable kickbacks):  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000KFTFLU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Now, you’ll have to excuse me… I’m running out the door right now to check out my first live bikini contest in Culver City! The Titans Grand Prix! I need to go for motivation and to be able to accurately envision my end game here. I really have no clue as to what to expect or what this will be like. Check back later for more details….

Day 22: Taking it to the Next Level

Ok, so I’m sitting here eating my 1/2 cup of plain oatmeal with 1 tablespoon of plain organic peanut butter, contemplating what’s on my plate for today. Here’s what I want to do:

  • Paint my nails while watching Six Feet Under
  • Take a nap
  • Eat
  • Watch another episode of Six Feet Under
  • Clean up a little (aka hide my dirty clothes from my clean, neat boyfriend)

Here is what I am going to do:

  • Go on a hike with my Little Bear (my dog) in Topanga
  • Come home & actually hang up my clothes and do laundry
  • Prep my meal plan for the week & do some food prep
  • Hit the gym – it’s Lats and Shoulders day, baby!

Only after I get my shit done will I relax and paint my nails and spend some time vegging out in front of the TV. Here’s the deal: I feel better, both mentally and physically, after a productive Sunday that includes exercise and preparing for the week ahead. However, until I get started, my brain tells me that staying in bed and being selfish and slothful is a short cut to self-gratification. I’ve given into that temptation for so many Sundays I can say truthfully that I know better. 

My intention for this week is as follows:

  • Lift 6 days
  • Do 4-5 cardio sessions, no longer than 30 minutes each
  • Eat only 1-2 meals at a restaurant – the rest must be home-cooked & clean!
  • Spend at least 20 minutes each day praying and meditating and getting quiet with my mind
  • Sleep at least 7 hours each night
  • Drink at least 3 liters of water each day
  • Go ‘live’ with my blog.

The last one is a big deal. All 17 posts on this site have been published without the worry or care of being subject to scrutinizing or critical readers. I’ve been sloppy with grammar and most of my writing is just free-flow stream of consciousness babble. I’m scared of being judged for my goal to compete in a bikini competition. That’s not OK with me anymore. I’m going to share my thoughts and my struggles and my recipes and workouts with my friends and see what happens. Hopefully it will inspire and motivate someone to go after something they’ve been shying away from.

 

Day 17: Yummy Turkey Meatloaf

Quick post!! Whipped this up in like 5 minutes flat. So stupid easy & healthy. I shoot for easy recipes when doing my meal prep for the week. I try to cook a lot on Sundays to eliminate some of the kitchen time during the week. This makes 4 generous servings if you’re a piggy like me, could be 5.

meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf 

Ingredients (4 servings) 

  • 1 lb Trader Joe’s All Natural Ground Turkey
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 tablespoons Red Mill almond flour
  • 1/2 can Trader Joe’s diced no-salt-added Organic Tomatoes
  • 1 can Trader Joe’s Sliced Black Olives
  • 1/4 chopped Yellow Onion
  • Generous dash of Italian Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder

I mixed all ingredients at once in a Pyrex bread loaf pan and thoroughly mixed it with my hands. I baked it in the oven for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Each serving has 286 calories; 18 g’s of Fat; 8 g’s of Carbs; 25 g’s of Protein.

Day 15: Information Overload?

So, I really can’t afford a personal trainer but I wanted to get some pro advice. I found a local fitness model who has competed in multiple NPC & IFBB competitions and has her Pro Card. She now solely focuses on personal training – both in person and online. I met with her on Thursday in a dingy little gym in the valley prepared with a million questions:

  • What should my body fat percentage be? What should my ideal weight be?
  • What types of supplements should I be taking?
  • Should I revise my diet according to a specific calculation of macros? And how do I do that?
  • How clean should I be eating? Should I be cutting calories or maintaining?
  • How much cardio should I be doing?
  • Most important: Is February 14th a realistic date that I can be ready to compete?

Now, to be sure – I thought I had the answers to most of these. I just wanted to confirm that I was on the right track and possibly get some insight from a pro that I couldn’t get otherwise. But when I walked outta there nearly 3 hours later, my mind had been thoroughly blown. Michele, to be sure, had an awesome body and she knows her shit. She told me that we’d be meeting for approximately an hour and a half, but the information she had for me just kept spilling out and I wasn’t about to stop her. She snapped some pictures of me in a bikini, took my measurements and I gave her some pertinent info like my body weight, BMR and body fat percentage. She put me on a completely different track than I had imagined and gave me a real game plan.

From now (Oct. 4th) through the end of November my main goal is to BUILD MUSCLE! In three specific areas: My shoulders, my back (specifically my lats, or Latissimi dorsi) and my glutes (note I did not just say “Legs” – she wants my focus on my glutes primarily, with my hamstrings secondary). I need to create an hourglass figure. Now, when she told me to build out my lats, I probably visibly grimmaced. Ew, lats? I don’t want a big man back! Then she showed me hers. She lifted up her arms and flexed her lats and I could totally see how creating breadth at the top makes the waist appear tiny. And she doesn’t walk around flexed! She’s smokin’ hot and “manly” is that last word you’d ever use to describe her. So, OK – lats it is. Shoulders are also important. Mine are tiny and I’ve unfortunately been using my traps (Trapezius – extends from the base of your skull down to your shoulder blade) and they are way overdeveloped. I already knew about my glutes – that wasn’t a surprise. Every girl is obsessed with working out her booty. She wants me focusing on single leg exercises which target my glutes only.

Another surprise – she does not want me running! Buh-bye HIIT and long runs on the bike path. She believes that running will burn up too much of my newly-hard-earned muscle, so she wants me walking on the treadmill for about 20-30 minutes at max incline just to raise my heart rate before I hit the weights.

I told her that I’ll be in Dallas for a week during Christmas and all bets are off when I’m there. I mean, I will restrict myself as much as possible but I can’t exclude myself from family dinners. To my surprise – she didn’t care! She said after my 2 months of muscle building, she’ll start to lean me out and I’ll go on a strict eating plan for the first three weeks of December – so by the time I get to Dallas I will already be in relatively good shape. When I get back (around December 29th) I’ll have 7 weeks of hardcore pre-competition prep.

She was confident I could place well in my first competition if I follow her plan. She said my body had “lots of potential” – which, to be honest, NO girl wants to hear! But I heard her out and I agree. She’s looking at me objectively through the lens of a bikini judge. I ain’t gonna let my pride or ego get in the way of hearing her expert opinion or criticism.

I left feeling a combination of new-found determination and motivation, but also some fear and frustration. There were exercises she had me doing that I could barely handle. She tweaked my posture and showed me mistakes I’ve been making for months (hello, giant traps!). How can I walk into the gym without some apprehension? It’s going to take a lot more concentration and a huge amount of time and focus creating more of a mind-muscle connection.

I want this more than ever, especially now that it seems way more real! More updates to come…

Day 12: Beast Mode!

Today I tried something new! After reading this awesome article on ‘fasted cardio’ I gave it a whirl. I just can’t stand cardio – the treadmill bores the shit outta me, I’m way too clumsy for the elliptical, and I can’t push myself hard enough on a stationary bike. I really rather go hiking or run around my neighborhood. However, I just don’t have that luxury when I gotta be at work bright and early. So I figured I’d give this a shot.

I woke up bright and early and got dressed in my gym gear. I resisted the urge to chug my normal protein shake – and for some reason, perhaps because I was specifically NOT eating, this morning I was really starving. Tummy growling and all. Nevertheless, I jumped on the freeway and about 10 minutes out from the gym, I downed my cocktail of 10 grams of BCAA’s and 300 mg of my pre-workout supplement (aka, my crack juice). I like my crack juice but I never take it on the same day I have a venti ice coffee from Starbucks. They both have about the same amount of caffeine, and my goal is not to be tweaked out for the rest of the day at work.

Per the article’s suggestion, and from other research I’ve done, my goal today was only about 25 minutes of cardio – not including the 5 minute warm-up I do, nor the 5 minute walking-only cool-down. I specifically was going to do HIIT cardio – High Intensity Interval Training. Right as I started experiencing that tingly beta-alanine rush, I got on the treadmill and walked on a very steep incline for about 5 minutes. I set the treadmill for 60 seconds at 3.8 mph to alternate with 60 seconds at 6.5 mph, at a level ‘2’ incline. I don’t give these numbers as a suggestion to any readers – I have HORRIBLE cardiovascular endurance. Probably (definitely) because I hate doing cardio, so I really haven’t been doing any at all. I had created a new playlist to go with my new cardio workout and it carried me all the way through! It was tough in the middle – I wanted to stop so bad! But I pushed through it and completed my fast-walking with all-out-sprinting intervals. I sweated like a pig – my face got all beet-red – and my hair was a mess by the end. But I loved it because it felt like the time went by quickly and my heart rate was elevated the whole time. I did down a giant protein shake and a banana the second I got into my office after the workout and felt like a champ for the rest of the day! ohmygodihatecardio.