Day 31: Doing Time

Every morning when I wake up at 4:45 am my first thought is: “I cannot go to the gym today. I have to come home and take a nap.”

Every morning. I’m able to recognize it and start laughing when these thoughts pop up – even as I go take a shower, then eat breakfast, then put on my makeup – the dialogue continues: “I just can’t do it today. I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I’ve got too much going on. I really need to come home and nap.”

It doesn’t matter how early I go to bed – even when I’m sleeping 7 hours a night – I don’t think I’ll ever wake up at 4:45 am with a big smile on my face ready to embrace the day. After I fully wake up and drive to work and get my day started, those thoughts totally disappear. Usually by the time I get to the gym, my mind is in a totally different space. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I just don’t wanna do anything all day long but come home and hibernate. And watch Law & Order re-runs on Netflix.

That’s why when I saw this posted on Pauline Nordin’s Facebook page, I liked the hell out of it:

“Scenario: you feel your body isn’t cooperating and it zaps all your energy. Last thing you want is to go work out.

Solution: here is when you practice dedication. Take down the ambitions of a super workout. Instead, just get to the gym. Do a really crappy workout, don’t try to outperform yourself just for today. For once, do your gym time. The importance is to keep the habit up, the rhythm of just going even when you’re not 100% on. This is what people miss. It’s not about burning calories, it’s about building psychological momentum.”

-Pauline Nordin

Hell. yes. This makes so much sense, and in hindsight, I’ve totally done this before. I mean, this wouldn’t work out well if I lowered my standards all the time -and if I were constantly ‘fighting’ my body each time it was time to hit the gym, I’d take a look at a few other things in my life (my Hashimoto’s, how much sleep I’m getting, my food intake, etc.). But this is such spot on advice.

See, motivation is such a tricky thing. It fluctuates and changes, and if I rely on the motivation I had last week, it’s not guaranteed to carry me through this week. In fact, I just read this awesome article by James Clear that pretty much echoes what I’ve been realizing lately. It’s as much about the process of achieving your goal, as it is about the goal itself. Sure, it’s inspiring and motivating to look at pictures of bikini pros like Amanda Latona; it helps me visualize what the sum of all my little efforts will (hopefully) look like. But after a while of admiring pictures of the pro’s on Instagram my mind will start to wander, and it’s hard not to compare myself to their progress. My goal of competing in February starts to seem impossible, implausible, unrealistic. I start losing the vision. To come back to center, I have to just focus on my system and the tiny steps that it’s going to take to ultimately reach that goal. For today, I am going to the gym at 4 pm to work shoulders (because it’s what I committed to when I laid out my gym schedule on Sunday). For today, I’m going to have faith in the process and believe that if I stay consistent, I will succeed in the long run. For today, even if I do a shitty job at the gym, I’ve stayed true to my schedule and this process and I at least succeeded at building that “psychological momentum”.

If you have a second, check out Pauline Nordin at her website. She’s a total badass. She’s not your standard likable fitness guru. She knows she’s hardcore and has a giant ego and doesn’t hide it. Maybe that’s another reason I like this quote from her so much. It comforts me to know that she has to cope with also being a fallible human with “off days”.

 

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Day 5: It’s only Day 5

Today was Legs Day. Yeah, that’s in caps. Legs Day is always the hardest and it happens twice a week. I learned a few good lessons while kicking my own ass at the gym today.

I started off strong. Despite feeling a little disconnected and self-conscious since I was trying out a brand new gym for the first time, I was determined to crush it! But I have to admit, I hated feeling like a newbie while I wandered around getting a lay of the land. Also, this gym is much larger and busier than my normal little boutique gym that is next door to my office. More people equals more opportunity for me to compare myself to other people – which never turns out well.

I usually start Legs Day with a strong dynamic warm-up to really get my legs ready. My first lift is always on the squat rack doing Barbell Squats. Admittedly, my form still sucks – but I’ve gotten so much better! I know that if I keep doing it eventually I will master it. I have a hard time keeping my chest lifted and sitting back; my body still wants to bend in half. I was doing OK – I felt a little weak today as I pushed through my warm-up sets 95 lbs. I increased to 110 lbs and on my fourth set I nearly folded over and had a mini-panic attack about whether or not I was going to be able to get up out of the full squat I was in. I made it – although it wasn’t pretty. The weight had shifted squarely onto my shoulders and I lifted it all up with my back. No bueno.

Lesson #1: I realized I lost it in my fourth set because I had no mental focus on what I was lifting. My mind had wandered – and I was obsessing over my car and the new Bachelor’s program I’m starting in January. Lifting is as much about mental focus and true concentration as it is brute strength. Maybe more mental than physical, even. Don’t quote me. That’s just my experience. I’m hoping to increase my focus by spending more time out of the gym doing some meditation. I have a small practice where I sit in silence every morning for about 7 minutes – and that is a struggle for me! Sometimes I find that the entire 7 minutes is me sitting there thinking, or thinking about trying hard not to think. Sometimes I fall asleep.

I moved onto the Leg Press. My legs were on fire already but I pushed through 2 sets of 15 reps at 90 lbs. I stood up to stretch out and that’s when I saw Her. She was doing barbell squats with amazing form! Stiff, strong back – she literally looked like she was just sitting down on a very small chair and standing back up effortlessly. Obviously she also had an incredible physique – perfect butt, tiny waist, her arms toned and strong. I sat back down and literally almost cried. I fought tears back as my mind attacked me: “There’s no way you’ll ever get there. You’re never gonna look like that. You can’t reach this goal. What are you thinking? This is so stupid. You are so stupid. Quit now! Even if you are able to ignore or suppress these thoughts right now, they’ll creep up again and reality will set in and you will quit long before the competition in February. You can’t finish this goal. Why are you lying to yourself? Besides, she’s special – she’s doing something that you don’t know about.  All the girls in February are going to look like her and you’re going to be a fucking joke.” 

WTF?! Ouch. The mental beat down I gave myself was worse than the flash of jealousy I felt upon seeing that chick.  It was crushing. The craziest thing was that it came out of nowhere. I don’t think I’ve ever had that thought in the gym before! Besides, most of the people I follow on Instagram look just like her – even better! – and I loving seeing those pictures because they totally motivate me. Why was I falling apart in the gym?

Good news: I didn’t quit. I went harder. I chose to move on and decided to analyze my little mental-breakdown later. I did two more sets on the Leg Press with 140 lbs and wobbled downstairs and did some walking lunges with with a 40 lb barbell and hip abductions. I usually go till failure on the Hip Abductor. I push my back against the pad and lift my butt a few inches above the seat – I don’t sit down on it directly. I took deep breaths and gave it my all. It was a 1.5 hr workout and my legs felt like jello by the time I hobbled outta there.

Lesson #2: There was a time in my life where I was literally killing myself with drugs and alcohol. I would go to 12 step meetings and see people living beautiful amazing lives – completely sober. I used to think to myself then, “I could never do that. That will never happen.”  Through a chain of events, I ended up in my fourth rehab (yes, #4) on July 7, 2006. One day I was high, and the next I wasn’t. Twenty four hours turned into forty-eight and then seventy two hours. Hour by hour, day by day, month by month I built a new life – one baby step at a time. I transformed. Eight years later, I am one of those happy shiny people with an awesome life I never thought possible. And yet, despite all evidence to the contrary – my mind can still be my own worst enemy. It’s not often, but sometimes it happens.

Here’s the what I think my mini-mind-fuck boils down to: I still compare my insides to other people’s outsides. In this case, I saw Her and thought “If I only I could look like her I would be happy. If only I had started earlier and I would be happy right now.”  Sam Harris, an awesome awesome dude you should check out, talks about this in his new book Waking Up. He describes how people actually “avoid happiness by struggling to achieve happiness”. WHOA. That hit home. I set these goals and tell myself once I achieve x (fill in the blank) only then will I be happy. Ignoring, in the meantime, all the awesome shit that’s happening around me. When I’m in that head space, I can kinda behave like the “non-contributing zero” that Louis CK talks about in this awesome clip. 

I can’t see my abs yet. My butt is not perfect. And sometimes I nearly fall over on the squat rack. But that is OK! I have to approach this goal one day at a time. The only thing that counts is what I’m doing today to reach that goal. As the video that started this whole damn thing (posted in my first blog) points out: “Greatness is a series of small things done well, over and over and over again.” So, here I stand, ready to take a million tiny steps towards that stage in February.

 

Day 1: The video that started it all

Yesterday at work, while I was in a trance gazing admiringly at pictures of Amanda Latona, I started seriously contemplating the idea of entering my first novice bikini competition. I’ve known deep down inside that this is something I’ve wanted to try, but honestly – I really didn’t think I could swing it. I can be plagued by the fear of losing or looking bad. It has been pointed out to me that if I think I’m not going to win, I refuse to play. Also, I keep telling myself that I’m just not strong enough to make the sacrifices that are needed to not look like a damn fool up on stage in a tiny bikini. So, what does one do once they make the decision to compete in a bodybuilding competition? Nap!!!

I left work, drove home, and was intent on jumping into bed and taking a looong nap. As I was laying there, I checked Facebook and got a notification that my good friend Rodney had posted some damn video and tagged me. Despite the fact that it wasn’t a video about cute animals doing something adorable, I watched it anyway.

Goddamit Rodney. I don’t know what happened but by the end of this video I was nearly in tears, Amex in hand, entering the NPC Gold Coast Muscle Classic.

So yeah. Today is Day 1. I have 149 days left to train and prepare for this contest. I’m going chronicle this journey day by day and see what happens.

I’m going to post what I eat, and how I train. Nothing too formal. Maybe things will change. Stay tuned.

DAY 1 Breakfast: 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, with some peanut butter on them (I know, it sounds weird, I’ve been putting PB on my eggs since I was little) and one slice of turkey bacon.

Afternoon snack: handful of almonds, sliced apples, some carrots and hummus.

I didn’t want to work out. I really didn’t. But how could I skip a work out on Day 1 of this journey? I couldn’t. I knew that would be wrong. So, I forced myself to do some cardio. I hate cardio with every molecule in my body and it shows in my tummy. I downloaded an app called “Interval Timer” on my iPhone and went at it. I took my dog Julius with me but he’s a goddamn wimp out in the heat so I immediately brought him back home and hit the pavement on my own. I did 10 intervals, 60 seconds of sprinting, then 60 seconds of fast walking. Here are some of the thoughts I contemplated prior to my workout:

1) I hate running in the heat – I should wait till the sun goes down – I’ll be able to run longer and harder if it’s cooler.

2) Running makes my legs sore and I want to train glutes on Monday.

3) I haven’t eaten enough today so I should go eat, then wait 45 minutes and then run.

4) I should read another article on Bodybuilding.com about HIIT cardio and then go run.

Those are all excellent reasons. You see, I’m well versed in the art of self-bullshitting. I can lie to myself all day long. Here’s what happened: I imagined myself being a soft-bellied amateur on stage with a bunch of trained hotties and before you know it, I was laced up and drinking some crack juice (aka, pre-workout supplement).

The funniest thing happens after I run: I feel fucking awesome. I feel like a bad-ass. I came home so pumped up and high on endorphins I went outside, laid down on a blanket on the grass and did some ab work. I did every ab exercise I knew in quick succession, took a quick 45 second rest, and did one more round.  Julius licked sweat off the back of my legs as I planked and even though that is disgusting, I didn’t stop. Ewwwww.

I have to make my own perfect opportunities. I can’t wait for the sun to go down, I can’t wait for the temperature to drop, I can’t wait until I understand the ins and outs of perfect HIIT training techniques — I have to get the fuck out there and run my ass off. I have to train whenever I can, however I can, under whatever circumstances I am faced with.

“When the messenger of misery visits me…what’s going to keep me in the game?” That part of the video hit me hard. I think this is more than just a silly bikini competition to me.This will be a daily reminder that I’ve been going too easy on myself. Things have just been too damn comfortable. I need to break out and make some changes and this is the first one. I am going to do something that right now I am absolutely uncomfortable committing to. I need to embrace the idea that I can be my own biggest enemy and overcome that shitty little voice in my head telling me I can’t – when in my gut I know it’s possible.