A Much Needed Break

I took this morning off from the gym. Spoiler: I’m probably going to take tomorrow morning off too. I know this is horrendously shocking to some of you folks but honestly my body needs a break. I haven’t gone more than two consecutive days without being in the gym in the better part of the last 5 months. When my alarm went off this morning I made the decision that it would be a good idea to just shut it off and rest another hour.

This is pretty much what I look like every morning. This cat captured my essence.

This is pretty much what I look like every morning. This cat captured my essence.

Take a day or two off from the gym isn’t just about giving my body a break it’s also about giving my mind a second to reboot. I’ve had so many things dancing around inside my head for the past few weeks and I need some time to sort through them all and adjust course. I would like to build a workout plan that doesn’t have me in the gym six days a week. I think something based around four or five days would be ideal. That would let me deal with the plethora of work on my plate right now and simultaneously give me a little extra time to enjoy my summer and let my body properly heal up.

The biggest win I had today was not taking this day off from the gym but the fact that I didn’t spent the morning feeling guilty for doing it. I always say I’m going to take a week off only to end up feeling guilty the whole time. That’s a mentality I really need to shake. I shouldn’t feel bad for taking a break or for needing to prioritize something different for a short while. Fitness doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. It has to get integrated into our lives in a way that makes sense and fits with all the other pieces.

Ultimately being healthy isn’t just about how we look or how we feel physically but also where we are at mentally. If I look incredible but I’m mentally a mess then I’m not healthy because I’m not happy. I have to remind myself of that fact constantly. To be healthy I have to be happy. I need to put that shit on a sticky note in every room I spend time in so I don’t forget. Right now I am happy. I’m finding my middle again and I’m doing a better job of reminding myself to enjoy moments instead of always thinking about where I’m going next. That applies not only to the gym but to my job and my family as well. It’s nice to slow down and remember that life is pretty rad. I should do this more often.

Ok I realize I have attacked your faces with enough emotions to last for an entire year this week. I’ll try to tone down my face hugger levels of emotional crap next week. Again I make no promises because whenever I do that I make myself into a liar. For the remainder of the week I’m going to rest and relax. Next week I’ll jump back into the gym and we can talk about some informative topics that do not revolve around my FEELINGS.

Words, Feelings, Blah Blah Blah

Yesterday I got all touchy feeling with the words and the feelings and the greater life thoughts. I’ll try not to do that again today. I’m still female though so it kind of sneaks up on me. I promise nothing but I’ll do my best.

WHY ARE YOU SO HAPPY FINGERS? I'M GOING TO EAT YOU ALL.

WHY ARE YOU SO HAPPY FINGERS? I’M GOING TO EAT YOU ALL.

Right now I’m sitting at my desk at work trying (and likely failing) to avoid eating an entire box of Cadbury Fingers in just one sitting. I had an incredibly productive workout this morning. It’s funny what a few hundred extra calories can do for a person. I hit back and ended up doing Rack pulls, 10 sets of 3 reps at 245lbs. 30 seconds of rest in between sets. Like.a.boss. There were other exercises both before and after that but they weren’t as fun because they did not involve at least two plates on a bar. I love stacking up 45s on a bar.

After all my self reflective bullshit yesterday I attempted to sit down and make a plan for the summer in terms of my gym time. After a few minutes of staring at a blank page I finally said “screw it.” I’ve decided I’m going to walk into the gym and do what I feel on that particular day. If I feel like pushing a low rest workout and some cardio I’m gonna. If I feel like heavy weights and long rest, I’m gonna. Basically I’m going to just structure my week around specific body parts and then go with my mood. It’s been a while since I went a little more by feel on my workouts. It’s the appropriate time of year to be a little more relaxed about this whole thing and the change will be good for my brain and my body.

In unrelated family news my son is going to head off to school in the Fall (Preschool). He’s really excited about this whole school thing and it prompted him to ask me last night “does this mean I’m big enough to go to the gym with you?” I totally wasn’t expecting that question from him. I mean he understands that I go to the gym and he sees me leave to go on the weekends because I work out slightly later in the day but I had no idea he was interested in the whole thing. I told him he would have to wait a bit longer to be able to come with me but that we could do exercises together at home in the meantime.

I ended up teaching both Nathan and Kaitlyn how to do squats, squat jumps, and pushups. I tried to teach them crunches but that devolved into them jumping on me and demanding I launching them straight up in the air. I don’t think they realized I wrecked my chest in the gym that morning. It ended up being less launching and more a slow toss but they didn’t really seem to mind my impaired ability to throw them around.

This whole experience reminded me that these kids of mine see EVERYTHING. Even the little things I don’t think they notice, they do. My son has taken to eating vegetables and calling them his “superhero food” so he can grow up to be strong like “mommy and Wonder Woman.” It’s pretty flattering to be put in a class with her. She’s a badass you guys. The kids see us exercises, they see what we eat, they hear what we say, and they notice how we feel. There is a reason I never make comments about “feeling fat” in my house. I don’t want my children to catch that. I don’t want them to start thinking of themselves as a number on a scale or measuring themselves against anymore else. The positive spin on their observational powers is that if we are conscious of what we do and display healthy habits to them we can raise them to be active, healthy kids.

Hopefully the collective force of our healthy habits will power them through those tough teenage years when we all doubt ourselves and feel insecure and uncomfortable. I don’t our children will avoid those feelings but I’m hoping we can at least help them manage them but bringing them to the gym with us and making sure there is quality food in the house. We’ll see how this goes as they get bigger but at least we have a foundation in place that we can build upon as they grow.

For now I need to drink a bit more coffee, do a bit more work, and put this damn box of chocolate biscuity goodness away before I consume the remainder of it. (Oh look at that I got all touchy feely again with the words about my kids. I TOLD YOU GUYS I PROMISE NOTHING.)

Monday Thoughts: Apparently I am Some Kind of Idiot

After I published yesterday’s post I chased my children around in a partially fevered state and then flopped down on the couch in a pool of exhaustion when they finally went to sleep. I spent the remainder of my evening thinking through the last week and I came to the realization that I am an idiot. I started that 30 Days Out program for exactly all the wrong reasons. I let my vanity get the better of me and took on something that I didn’t need to do. Actually it would be more accurate for me to say I let my hormones get the better of me because what I was feeling was inadequacy.

DEAR ELAINE, STOP BEING AN IDIOT. LOVE, ELAINE

DEAR ELAINE, STOP BEING AN IDIOT. LOVE, ELAINE

What really happened here was that I let the tiny voice inside my head that constantly whispers stupidity at me win. I found myself losing my confidence and second guessing the way I looked and what I was doing. The worst thing about all of that is what I was doing was working. Yes I had gained 10 lbs but it was a quality 10lbs. There wasn’t a ton of extra body fat in there, it was all muscle. I had worked hard for every inch of it. Most importantly the way I was eating and the way I was training had been making me happy until I let that stupid voice win.

It’s funny how even those of us that seem the most confident about ourselves and what we do can be defeated by simple, small moments of self doubt. Confidence is a difficult thing because it doesn’t exist without work. It can evaporate in a second if we become complacent and just assume it will be there for us when we need it. I need to remember to look at myself in the mirror and love myself the way I am. I need to remember that what I am is good enough and how I do things is right for me. I need to remind myself every single day to respect the process and try not to rush things.

More important than anything else I need to remember to enjoy each day as a stand alone entity. I’m wasting everything if all I do is think about the mistakes I made yesterday or the things I want to do tomorrow. Sometimes it’s so hard to be present right now. To enjoy my children, to enjoy my workout, to enjoy the weather, my lunch, or whatever else without thinking about what next.

This post is going to serve as a little kick in my butt to remember that I’m good enough the way I am. It’s a reminder to stop thinking about what I don’t have and instead focus on what I have to be happy about. I need a little less “what next” in my life and a little more “damn that’s rad.”

Do any of you folks struggle with this kind of stuff? Tell me how you cope in the comments. Don’t worry I’ll lay down some more useful information for you guys as the week goes on but today I needed to air my own stupidity and self doubt so I could remind myself to be a little less foolish in the future.

30 Days Out: Day 7 – Early Termination

Current stats:

Weight: 138lbs

The title of this post kind of says it all. I’m dropping the 30 Days out program as of today. I have a few reasons, most of them small and piddling but one of them is the driving force behind me having to drop it early. As of last night I’m sick. Now before you throw a hissy fit about how you can totally train while you are sick etc, etc let me actually explain my position on exercise during illness.

I will generally train through most illnesses. It can actually help me break through things like head colds because it circulates blood and releases some happy making chemicals in the brain. There are three exceptions to my “train while sick” rule:

Evil, soul sucking, virus.

Evil, soul sucking, virus.

1) A stomach virus – It’s just not ok to walk into a gym carrying those kind of germs and infect everyone else. They could be caregivers for small children or elderly people and it’s just kind of a dick thing to do. I generally give myself 24-48 hours after I stop throwing up before I go back into the gym.

2) A cold that has migrated into my chest – If I’m wheezing and can’t breath then exercising isn’t going to do me any damn good and it’s going to make me sicker. This is a deal breaker especially for someone like me who has reactive type asthma that triggers during chest illness. Yeah no thanks.

3) I have a fever (which is where we are right now) – For me to get a fever it’s a pretty big deal and it means my body is battling something bigger than just a minor cold. Both of my kids have had fevers recently, Kaitlyn has had two in the last 10 days because of two different illnesses. Not only am I run down and feel terrible but this fever is kicking my ass. I suspect I’ll come out the other side of it with either Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease or I’ll have the horrible summer cold which is actually a chest cold. Either one of those options is brutal. I have dubbed these bugs “The Terminator” because of their ability to decimate the energy of my happy, healthy children.

Now if my fever breaks by tomorrow I will likely still go to the gym but I’m not going to battle a fever on 400 calories below maintenance. That is setting my body up for failure. If I was a pro, getting ready for a photo shoot and this was my lively hood then yes I’d fight through it. The truth is I’m no pro. I’m not a competitor. My lively hood is my full time job and my second full time job involves keeping my children (and myself) healthy. It’s not worth it for me to keep running this thing right now.

Yeah I know to many of you it may read like a list of excuses and that’s fine. I just didn’t want to stop posting and have folks wonder why. Will I still be back in the gym as soon as this fever breaks? Yes. Will I still run the 30 Days Out workouts for a few more weeks? Yes. Will I keep aggressively cutting my calories? No. I’m going to run the workouts because they are a fun change of pace and will help me keep my body fat in a good place over the summer. I’ll come back up to maintenance calories over the next week or so and then in the Fall I’ll seriously consider a strength gaining program to ride out through the winter.

In other news, yesterday I pulled 295lbs on my deadlift. That was before the fever hit which means I did that while already battling something. I’m 20lbs away from my deadlift goal of 315. That is something I can feel good about right now which is desperately needed in the face of having to stop doing something I committed to. I hate not finishing things. It bothers me. It would bother me more to be unhealthy in front of my children though so I feel like I’m making the right choice.

I’ll check back in this week with more workout updates and maybe some videos now that I have a fancy new GoPro camera 🙂

30 Days Out: Day 5 – Burn All the Fat

Daily check in:

Weight: 138.2 lbs

I was honestly shocked to see that kind of a loss. Then I really sat down and thought about it and yesterday’s leg workout was the most brutal I’ve done in a while so it was perfect to shock my body into dropping a bit of weight. Seriously I can’t even walk today without looking like some weird penguin so I’m going to say yesterday was effective. Fat is being burned you guys.

Macros:

  • Calories: 1800
  • Protein: 207 grams
  • Carbs: 48.5 grams
  • Fat: 86 grams
YOU DON'T EVEN STAND A CHANCE FAT.

YOU DON’T EVEN STAND A CHANCE, FAT.

No, you are not reading that incorrectly. Today and tomorrow are high fat low carb days and then on Sunday and Monday the carbs come back up. I have to say I’m not hating this carb slide. I’m going to eat 6 tablespoons of peanut butter and a whole avocado today. Things are looking up. I hit shoulders, 1 tabata, and 25 minutes of steady state cardio today. Hang clean to press when your legs are sore is challenging but I powered the hell through.

I’m going to be honest I’m sore, I’m hungry, and yesterday I wanted to quit. I’m feeling reenergized this morning and powering past the mental barrier that wants me to stop and go back to what I’ve been doing for months. The thing is what I’ve been doing for months has gotten stale and going back would be kind of like standing still. This program is a way for me to appease my vanity and to switch it all up and reset my gym mentality a bit. If I didn’t do something drastically different I would end up spinning my wheels doing the same things over and over.

I wanted to take a bit of time to chat about Creatine in this post because I feel like it’s one of those supplements that can have some fantastic benefits for just about anyone doing any type of intense exercise. Don’t get nervous I won’t get too scientific you guys all have Google if you want a more in depth break down.

Creatine is a substance produced in small quantities by our liver. It is then transported and stored in our muscles where it gets used when energy is demanded i.e. during exercises. Like I said our bodies do not produce an incredible amount of the stuff so there isn’t a ton of it to be called upon when intense exercise is done. This is where supplemental Creatine comes into the mix. It’s sold in powder form and typically a 5 gram dose is recommended.

Supplemental Creatine had a bad rap back when I first started lifting. People thought it did liver and kidney damage in addition to other side effects like water bloat. Over the last decade supplemental Creatine has surpassed Whey protein as the most researched supplement. There are hundreds of studies and articles in the NCBI’s database from scientists all over the world. The resounding opinion is that Creatine when used correctly is probably the most effective performance boosting supplement you can legally buy. It’s been shown to increase energy, improve endurance, and promote more rapid muscle repair.

Creatine isn’t some sort of magic supplement. The bottom line is having more in your body allows you to provide more energy to your muscles. That translates to being able to lift a couple of extra reps in a set or push a couple of extra pounds on a lift. You won’t magically start squatting 5 plates when you first take the stuff.

The reason I’m bringing this all up is that Creatine can have a profound impact on all sorts of athletes. Weight lifters see a boost in endurance and more reps in the gym, runners have more endurance and repair faster, people who do Spartan Races or Tough Mudders will see an improvement in their endurance, strength, and recovery time. Basically if you are pushing your body pretty hard this is a supplement you should research.

The bottom line is you get a boost in performance and recovery, there are nearly zero side effects, and the stuff is CHEAP. I buy a 228 serving container of it for less than $30.  The most major side effect tends to be water retention. I personally don’t have that issue but some folks are more sensitive to that than others. If you do take Creatine just make sure you are well hydrated through the day.

So how do you take this stuff? There are a number of schools of thought on this. Most folks take it post workout in their whey protein (they add 5 grams). Some folks take it pre workout. Others do both. I fall into the do both camp but only because my pre workout supplement has some Creatine in it. I end up probably around 7.5 grams a day on days that I lift. I don’t take it on my off days. Basically what ends up happening is you build up a reserve in your body and it is used when your muscles are called upon. That’s why there isn’t really some huge benefit to taking it before working out vs. after.

I’ve seen a remarkable difference between when I do and don’t take Creatine. I definitely see an uptick in my endurance and recovery when I have it in my supplement mix. I cycle it in and out depending on what kind of workouts I’m going through at the time. If I’m at maintenance or below calories I like having Creatine in there as a boost to power through a tough workout. When I’m above maintenance calories I tend to give my body a break from it.

I think that’s all for the day. Time to stop typing and start eating all this peanut butter. I guess I should do some work too but that isn’t half as important.

 

 

30 Days Out: Day 4 – This is Madness

First, a check in.

Weight: 139lbs

That sounds about right to me. I was honestly expecting it to go up a bit now that my body has caught on to this nonsense I’m putting it through. I’ve also got a good bit of soreness going on in my arms, traps, and upper back. Inflammation like that can sometimes cause water retention.

Macros:

  • Calories: 1800
  • Protein: 207 grams
  • Carbs: 121 grams
  • Fat: 57 grams
NO FOOL THIS IS LEG DAY.

NO FOOL THIS IS LEG DAY.

This morning was legs, 1 tabata, and 25 minutes of steady state cardio. I’m not going to lie to you guys I wanted to quit this morning. 10×3 on the leg press and then 6×5 on front squats with only 30 seconds of rest between sets is absolutely brutal. Right after set four of front squats I was wondering why I was putting myself through this. I was thinking about quitting, about calling the whole thing off. I powered through the fifth set and then moved on to the glute bridge and somewhere in there I told myself to suck it up and get it done. This workout is only an hour and it’s doable. I can do it. I just had to break through that mental barrier.

Today was definitely one of those days that having a good gym playlist really paid off. Shuffle was treating me super well and the right tracks were coming on at the right moments to help me keep my head in it and push through. Special shout out to “Madness” by Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike, Lil John, and Coon. That track got me through the worst of it and it seemed all downhill from there.

Motivation is one of those things that is so specific to each individual person. Some folks find motivation in pictures of fitness pros, some find it in inspirational quotes, others find it in music. I’m a bit of a hybrid. Music helps me push through when I’m already in the thick of it but my stubbornness and overwhelming need to finish what I start is what gets me in the gym in the first place. I’ll admit there are days when I have internal arguments with myself. I don’t want to get out of bed, what’s one extra day of rest, you’re already in pretty good shape, you’re just a mom what’s the big deal. Those are all the internal thoughts that pass through my head when that alarm goes off at 4am.

Some days I can push the negativity and laziness away without flinching. Other days, like those bitter cold winter days, it’s a battle. I fight with myself. Ultimately I tell myself “just put your feet on the floor.” Once I get my feet on the floor I know I’ll go in autopilot and get into that gym but I have to quiet all the negativity and just tell myself to do it. A lot of things in life are like that. We know we can do it but we fight with ourselves. Ultimately we just have to tell that internal monologue to shut the hell up and convince ourselves to take one step in the direction of where we want to go.

For the rest of the day I’ll be taking as few steps as possible because my legs are blasted but you better believe I’ll talk myself out of bed tomorrow and into the gym for shoulders.

30 Days Out: Day 3 – Finally Peanut Butter

Today’s stats:

Weight: 139lbs

That’s another pound dropped. I’m fully hydrated now so I’m fairly certain this is actually a loss and not just water. Moving in the right direction. So far so good.

Macros:

  • Calories: 1800
  • Protein: 207 grams
  • Carbs: 121 grams
  • Fat: 54 grams

I’m not going to lie the first two days of the week are a little brutal for me. Having higher carbs and lower fat essentially means most of my fat comes from my protein sources. This isn’t an issue except for the fact that there is no room for peanut butter. I really love peanut butter. Today I get to have peanut butter (I could also have a little yesterday). I can guarantee I will be less cranky today than I was on Monday.

HEY GURRRRLLL.

HEY GURRRRLLL.

So far I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling these workouts the day after which is good. Areas like my back and chest aren’t generally sore for me in programs where I have more rest but this 30 seconds of rest between sets thing is kicking my ass but good. Today’s workout was an auxiliary day to break the week up a bit. Three tri sets for arms and calves and then the tabata portion was three ab exercises. After that I hit 30 minutes on the treadmill to finish things off. You’d think this kind of workout would be easy but I can assure you it’s not. The ab exercises left me burning so doing 30 minutes upright and moving afterwards was a touch brutal. Whatever, it’s all ok now, I have peanut butter.

I want to spend the second half of this post today talking a little bit about muscle soreness. Anyone who has done any sort of physical exercise has likely experienced this at some point. Generally when you are at maintenance calories or above it tends to be less of an issue or at least it doesn’t last as long. In a calorie deficit you are giving your body way less fuel to repair the damage you did to your muscle in the gym. That tends to translate into prolonged soreness accompanied by some weird joint pains and overall aches depending on how long the deficit in calories goes on.

On a quick program like this I’m looking to minimize soreness or at the very least drive it away as quickly as I can. Making sure to drink enough water can help flush lactic acid out of the muscles and keep them from being quite as sore. For big muscles like my legs I sometimes use Ibuprofen to ease the soreness. Epson salt baths also help me tremendously. You can find epson salts in your pharmacy. Well worth the investment especially considering how cheap they can be. Another trick that a lot of people forget is using cardio, specifically low intensity cardio, to diminish some of the soreness. Basically doing some low impact cardio can circulate blood through your system which helps loosen up the muscles and ease the soreness.

I’m going to go ahead and guess with the leg workout planned for tomorrow I’ll need everything on the above list by Friday or Saturday. At least those days are both high fat and low carb which means I can ease my pain slightly with more peanut butter and a whole avocado.

A question for anyone actually reading this: I’ve been considering getting a GoPro for a while. If I inserted discussion videos into these posts instead of the wall of text would that be something you guys would watch? Honestly I’m lazy and all this typing before I’ve had two meals is not my favorite. Videos I could actually record while trapped in my car en route to work. Let me know if the comments if you’re interested in video content. I can bring that little thing into the gym with me too if there’s an interest in that.