Monday, November 5, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
The Protein Pancake Showdown
I've been hearing about protein pancakes for quite a while, but haven’t tried them. Some use egg whites, some whole eggs, some protein powder. The beauty of the protein pancake is that it is so customizable. The other beautiful thing is that I hate straight egg whites and this is a fantastic way to eat them while entirely avoiding their taste and texture.
This morning Rich and I each took a turn at creating a protein pancake. Having a highly physical job, his dietary goals are drastically contrasted to mine. He has to make an effort to keep weight on (Lucky bastard! Love him anyways of course :) so it’s appropriate that his pancake came out with mass gainer stats. On the other hand, I sit in an office all day and have to fight all my natural eating tendencies to not put on weight. Handily, my pancake has the perfect stat ratio to facilitate a lean body composition– if I can stay on track past breakfast that is ;)
The pancakes may be ugly, but I thought mine was tasty and filling. Rich's turned out a little bit dry, but he thought he overcooked it. It had a nice peanut butter flavor. We are going to keep tweaking them. Next up, we will try adding a little baking powder for increased fluffiness.
To stay on track come lunch the following recipe (ingredients all courtesy of Trader Joe’s) is easy to prep on the weekend and take for weekday lunches with 2 cups of steamed or raw green veggies.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Someone very near and dear to me is battling aplastic anemia, a disorder that literally wipes her out. It doesn’t stop her though; she doesn’t have to let it because she chooses instead to be her attitude. She says that she is tougher than most healthy people out there and you know what? She is.
My mom went through breast cancer twice when I was a small child and she handled it similarly. My mom does not like gyms; I haven’t managed to drag her into one for a single workout since I became a gym fanatic. However, when she was diagnosed with cancer she made the choice to get in the best shape of her life, going to step aerobics classes daily at a gym. She stood up and was tougher, stronger, and fitter than she ever had been in her life. She didn’t make an excuse; she made a choice to be her best.
I am nowhere near as strong as these two women. I make excuses. When I go a month without a satisfying workout I excuse it with the fact that I’m not training for competition. When I eat too much or eat things I shouldn't I excuse it as a stress outlet. Making excuses makes you your own worst enemy. Making excuses is the most effective way to guarantee that you will not reach your fitness goals.
I gave up recently. I was in a funk because I was about to graduate and receive my B.A. in Accounting (I’m a person who doesn’t like change). I wasn’t even finding satisfaction in working out, no more endorphin highs. I also gave up on diet and largely ate whatever I wanted. I had an excuse. I’d found out that I apparently don’t deal with the stress of school as well as I’d thought and was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. It was nice to have an explanation for why I was tired all the time and why my metabolism was slow, but I made the mistake of making it into an excuse. I should have made it into an incentive to be better. As I’ve said I’m not the strongest person in my life. I’m weak. I need baby steps to circumvent my excuses. One little change by one little change to be what I’m capable of.
I've allowed life to intimidate me lately. I began an accelerated MBA program and the first quarter is a very heavy class load essentially meant to serve as a refresher for an entire undergraduate business degree… in 8 weeks. After about a day of intimidation I made a choice to not allow it. How can I simply ban intimidation from my new career as an MBA Candidate? Simple. Jogging.
Jogging and I have been lifetime enemies. I was the runner on two triathlon teams in 8th and 9th grade, but I speed-walked half of both. I ran track in high school, but I called the 300 meter hurdles my “long distance event.” I glare at treadmills. I am happy to sweat it out at a more than respectable speed on a StepMill or an Elliptical for 45-60 minutes, but I am not a runner. I’m slow. I get out of breath quickly. I can’t multitask while I’m doing it. I don’t like it.
Therefore, if I can beat (translation: befriend) jogging I can be more powerful than an MBA. If I wield a powerful mental state I cannot be intimidated by an intense class. On the fourth day of my MBA I was able to restart my old routine of an early am workout. So I ran before I lifted. I looped around campus. I was out of breath, it was hard, and I only had time for15 minutes, but it was fun. I ran up and down stairs. I saw the sun and the freshness of bright green grass and old growth trees. It is a powerful feeling to travel the same walkways light of foot and spirit that you normally traverse laden down by a backpack, cooler, gym bag, and raincoat. Today, I went to campus just to jog and lasted a whole 50 minutes. I made nature my playground and fit in 14 sets of stair sprints for fun. It was the best cardio only day I've had in a long time.
In class we again spoke about Jim Collins, whose book Built to Last I already integrate into my fitness philosophy. We spoke of installing mechanisms in our lives to automate adherence to our core values without the necessity of motivation. Taken in tandem with some of the attributes of meaningful work my jogging is more empowering than I thought.
toe shoes my calf muscles were so tight that I was inclined to take an elevator down a single flight of stairs. I love feeling that 'battle scar' though, just as I have long loved DOMS. They are signs of progress. It is my goal to work my way up to being capable of an hour long jog that I enjoy. If I can do that I can certainly handle an MBA.
My diet has also been weak lately, but baby steps can help me there too:
I love bagels, but bagels are a carb heavy muscle definition killer. Solution? P28, the high protein bagel (28 grams of protein per bagel) that meets my goals and my cravings. I really like them and just ordered our second case.
Getting enough protein without getting sick of meat, fish, or protein powder is tough for me. That’s why I love nonfat Greek yogurt. Not all brands are created equal. Fage and the Costco house brand Kirkland Signature both have 23-24 grams of protein per 130-140 calorie 8 oz. serving. Other brands have as little as a third of that protein portion so watch those labels. This is a great protein source because you can keep it varied by mixing in fruit, a few tablespoons of granola, nuts, dried fruit, honey, or other things I haven’t thought of. It is also very portable (and a nice and quiet to eat in class) meal.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
If you think you know how to do something it’s likely a good time to start anew =) That doesn’t go for everything of course, but it does go for my benching. So far I only compete with myself in my own mind as a powerlifter. Maybe someday I’ll compete for real or maybe I’ll just keep besting myself. I already have a good strength base, but my foray into powerlifting, aside from squats, has thus far been with bad form. My deadlift form needs a lot of work and I flat bench. Stumble over to YouTube and you can quickly find that Powerlifters generally bench with an arch. There’s a great article here explaining the merits and tactics of benching with an arch. That's not where I got my crash course in arching though. Sarah M. is a powerlifter I'm lucky to know who has been benching since she her early teens, is incredibly strong, and has the most solid of form. I'd seen arching last fall at our annual university meet, but have never been able to figure it out. Sarah gave me a quickie crash course in getting into proper arch form last week and that has made all the difference in the world. It all makes sense now!
I need solid form before I can build real strength so today I abandoned what I knew for something new.
I’m getting smarter about my training. I’m super lucky to have my fiancé as my spotter so I’m coordinating my bench day and squat day around his schedule. I lose my edge and my opportunity to eek out new strength if I do either alone. Deadlifts are my weakest lift. I can DL 250 lbs, but with sketchy form. Going back to the beginning, lifting very light and nitpicking my DL form until it is solid will be a task for another day sometime soon =)
When time allows I’m hoping to do a detailed post on dieting to build muscle, shrink in size, and rev up your metabolism in tandem with a workout routine. The pitfalls of unsuccessful dieting aren’t what you’d think. Eating too little and not eating often enough or some common unexpected diet killers. I’ve had a few mom friends ask me recently about diet and/or exercise tips and I’m hoping to answer that in detail in a post soon.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Since I began weight training there has been one thing that makes me insanely happy and high on life. I like to call it “getting a new heavy.” Whether it was when I worked up to 40 lb dumbbells for overhead db shoulder presses or when I got all amped and crazy and managed a 65 lb dumbbell for single arm bent over db rows or my new squat PR of 195 lbs for 5 reps set just 3 days ago – these are the moments that make me fly. Getting stronger and racking up the numbers to prove it is my biggest love in lifting. It doesn’t matter how much stress I am under or even if I have a throbbing headache – getting in there and going for it always makes me better.
What could I lift in one year? Two years? Three years? I have no idea other than that it would be more than I can lift now.
I only started lifting weights at all 1 year and 7 months ago – and the first 4 months all I did was Body Pump classes. It wasn’t until I found Laura (my wonderful former PT turned friend) that I got out of the group fitness room and starting playing with the free weights. She taught me a lot and then I had enough of a base to teach myself more. I’ve been addicted ever since.
That's me in July 2010 - the month I moved to a town with a Gold's Gym, joined up, and took up with Body Pump. That's my favorite pair of jeans right there. I haven't been able to get them on in over a year - not even the week of Emerald Cup. I'll take the super quads I've built over denim though! Aren't I cute - all proud of my tiny bicep? ;)
There's my bicep again, today actually, 1 year and 7 months after the first picture. Looks a little different with all the free weights in it's life ;)
I’m pretty strong, but I have not trained for strength. I’ve trained for Figure. I’ve trained my shoulders, triceps, biceps, back, chest, legs, and abs for size, balance and definition focusing on sets of 8-12 reps, and in some cases 16-20 reps, of 3-4 exercises per muscle group on a 6 day split.
What haven’t I done? Focused on low rep maximum weight training. I haven’t had a weekly squat day, weekly deadlift day, and weekly bench press day with other days filled in working auxiliary muscle groups.
The powerlifters I have met aren’t just awe-inspiring and inspirational in their personal bests – they’re all around great people. I haven’t sought extensive advice on getting into the sport and I haven’t talked to anyone about coaching me on my form. I haven’t joined any of the many powerlifting federations.
I have internet stalked the shit out of most of them though =)
What else have I done?
1) Deadlifted 250 lbs for 1 rep – my form was far from great and it was a bad lift because I false-started just prior.
2) Deadlifted 240 lbs “legally” in competition.
3) Benched 120 lbs in competition.
4) Benched 125 lbs with a spotter for 3 reps in the gym since the competition.
5) Squatted 190 lbs in competition.
6) Squatted 195 lbs for 5 reps in the gym
7) Taken up with rack pulls – the improve my DL form tip given to me by my queen of the deadlift friend. The woman is a brick house ;) I was doing sets of 6 @ 185 lbs and sets of 2-3 @ 205 lbs today.
8) Purchased a rich royal purple Inzer lever belt for protection as I get stronger =)
What will I do now?
1) Seek advice from the experienced.
2) Create a training plan.
3) Set short and long term goals.
4) Ideally, get a training buddy.
5) Find and compete in one or two small powerlifting meets before 2012 comes to a close.
What’s the expectation?
Not to place, but to beat my own records.
What’s the fantasy?
That’s the national contest qualifying total for a competitor in the open women’s 148 lb weight class. Your squat, bench press, and deadlift have to total 760 or higher. This must happen on record at a meet. The one thing I’m not clear on is if that’s raw or in gear. If your total meets or exceeds that number you can go compete at the Women’s Nationals.
The current Washington State women’s open record holder for raw lifts in the 148 lb class has a total of 788.1 lbs (286.6 lb Squat 170.9 lb Bench and 330.7 lb Deadlift). I weigh in at 142 right now. My “happy weight” is 138 and 134 looks like crap on me – too skinny, blech. The next weight class down is 132 or under so I will firmly be in the 148 class – there’s even room for a few more lbs of muscle ;)
Could I be that strong one day? Maybe someday or maybe never. I know new PRs are coming in my future and while they may never qualify me for a national level they will be my own and I will love them. I smile at the sight of the calluses on my hands and I’d expect to sleep like a baby should I ever have the chance to cuddle up with iron. This sport enthralls me – it is who I am – and that’s what makes me giddy =)
Saturday, March 10, 2012
I’m one of those people who needs to funnel their energy somewhere. Lately, I keep issuing mini mid-workout challenges to myself. Last week on leg day I didn’t feel inspired to wrap up with cardio so I decided to go a little lunge crazy. The most I’d ever done before was an even 300 (10 sets of 30 walking lunges with a 40 lb barbell on my shoulders) so I thought I’d aim for 400 for the hell of it. I was only going to carry lightweight (12.5 lbs each) dumbbells so I started out alternating sets of 50 and 60 reps on an indoor track with 30-60 seconds rest between sets. My last set I went to failure and my grand total reps came in at 463. I’ve also had some really great upper body workouts lately where I’ve maximized the benefits of super sets to work really hard and comprehensively hit two muscle groups on very limited time. Being the accounting nerd / lifter combo that I am I tallied up my lift total after a recent biceps and shoulder session for kicks. My total was 12,645 pounds, 8,950 pounds of which was biceps and 3,695 pounds of which were shoulders, in less than 40 minutes. Silly quantitative moments like that make me smile =)
(click to enlarge)
I've been implementing HIIT (high intensity interval training) lately and it’s led me to start enjoying cardio again. Shhhhhhh ;) I made a bet with my mom a month ago about healthing up our respective diets and I’ve lost 4.5 lbs since then. I’m even enjoying eating clean (well +/- 90% clean) again. I pass by the Starbucks treat case almost daily and the rice krispy treats and vanilla bean scones lack the siren call they had a few months back.
So, WHY AM I NOT COMPETING??! =)
I don’t know – I feel like I should be.
There aren’t any figure competitions in Washington State on my timeline, unfortunately. The Washington Natural was in Seattle in July last year, but moved up to April this year :( Unless I want to travel out of state, that leaves Ironman in October. If I do it I won’t go it alone again. I would join a team, likely Tanji Johnson’s Save Fitness. Having the support of a team would protect me from the pitfalls of my first attempt: namely the post-competition crash and improper posing.
There’s also power-lifting, which I loved trying. I think it’s an amazing sport, but my form for both deadlifts and bench would need A LOT of work, preferably with a trainer.
Then there are the competitions designed solely to get your thrill on: The Survivor Mud Run, Warrior Dash, and Tough Mudder, to name a few. They consist of courses anywhere from 3.5-12 miles long fraught with 11-25 obstacles, and lots of mud of course!
My max pull-ups right now are 8 with an overhand medium grip. I want to be able to do that many or more with the challenging, but lat-loving wide grip. That’s a great mini goal, but I NEED a big training goal in my life again. Figure, powerlifting, and thrill-seeking all appeal. Regardless of if I’m dropping body fat for a stage tan or building strength to master obstacles and coat myself in mud I will be training for something by the start of spring quarter. The only question is, what?
Sunday, February 12, 2012
One week ago I decided to get real about my diet and start eating clean again. I’m not a figure competitor anymore – I just lift 5-6 days a week, get in cardio when I have time, and know that I feel better when I eat a high protein veggie heavy mostly clean diet. One week ago I was 7 pounds north of my preferred body weight. I’m now 5.5 pounds north of it. I’m not going diet crazy, just returning to caring about what I’m fueling myself with. I’m eating roughly 2,000 calories a day of 90% clean foods. I eat 5-6 smaller meals and I make sure to pack them up with protein. I allow myself some leeway though. I might have a Cadbury cream egg one day or a Tall Cinnamon Dolce Latte another day. I see no sense in harping on myself for these 150-200 cal splurges of junk calories – I see them as making my diet a realistic lifestyle. When my intake is 90% clean I feel better, pure and simple: no competition carrot, no 1,500 calorie budget of strict macro ratios, just feeling healthy and living a lifestyle that’s realistic for me in the long run.
One of my favorite magazines, M&F Hers, always has “duels” between two types of exercises or machines. I’m a fan of such comparisons and thought I’d do a coffee one for kicks. On Monday after my workout I was craving a Cinnamon Dolce Latte en route to my rather dry afternoon lecture. Leaving the locker room I realized I didn’t have any quick protein so I bought a Muscle Milk Light. I normally pack protein powder from home to save money, but I was unprepared that day. I thought I was getting the chocolate Muscle Milk Light, but when it came out of the vending machine it was a Café Latte flavor I’d never tried. It wasn’t until I drank it that I noticed the big letters on the front declaring it “Caffeinated!” That completely eliminated my Cinnamon Dolce Latte justification so I didn’t get one that day. Which caffeine treat would win a Muscle Milk Cafe Latte Light vs. Starbucks Tall Cinnamon Dolce Latte duel? Let’s find out ;)
(click to enlarge comparison chart)
In terms of nutrition the Muscle Milk is the clear winner. In terms of taste satisfaction the Cinnamon Dolce Latte is the winner, but just barely.
I’m going to declare neither the winner and instead call my homemade frothy Frappuccino-esque shake version the winner for both nutrition and taste =)
Stats & Recipe: 188 calories, 26 grams protein, 12 grams carbs, 4 grams fat.
1 scoop MyoFusion Probiotic Delicious Vanilla protein powder
¼ cup whole milk (yes, whole!)
4-6 ice cubes
4-6 ounces cooled drip coffee
Adjust ice and amount of coffee to your own shake thickness preferences =)
Friday, February 10, 2012
The Athlete's Heart
You know how you hear gym junkies (like me!) talking about their splits a lot? Shoulders, Back, & Abs on Monday & Friday, Chest, Biceps, &Triceps on Tuesday and Thursday, Legs on Wednesday and Saturday, Sunday rest - that type of thing. It’s just that, for some, there’s one more muscle that’s been getting worked, growing new muscle fibers, and dramatically changing in overall structure. It’s been getting trained all six days of the split; it’s an important muscle, the heart.
This summer I popped up with a pattern of pre-hypertension blood pressure readings, 134-140 / 74-90. This was new; I always used to have nice low readings in the healthy <120/<80 range. I thought I’d be proactive about it so I signed up for a $50 “Take Heart” screening at a nearby hospital. My fasted blood sugar, triglycerides, and “good” and “bad” cholesterol readings were all within normal bounds and I managed a better than usual 128/74 BP reading.
I was pleased and largely forgot about it until my ECG reading came back in the mail with abnormalities: a Right Bundle Branch Block (RBBB) and a sinus arrhythmia. The RBBB is the freaky one. If you Google it you get a nice big list of heart disease variants as the potential cause so I decided to see a cardiologist to answer questions.
At my cardiology appointment they did a new ECG and then the cardiologist began chatting me up. He noted that I had filled out “exercise 6 days a week” on the intake paperwork and inquired what I did. I got about a minute into describing my training for bodybuilding and having just done my first powerlifting competition when he said, “you may have just explained your problem. Your abnormality may just be Athlete’s Heart.”
I’d never heard of that. Apparently, long-term athletic activity is known to cause morphological and functional changes in the heart characterized as left ventricle cavity dimension changes, wall thickness and mass increase, and rhythm conduction changes. Taken together these changes are collectively known as “Athlete’s Heart Syndrome.” My cardiologist ordered an Echo-cardiogram to look into it further and sent me on my way.
Not being one to sit idly by with a rather important body part in question I took advantage of my access to a university library and found myself deep in the periodicals section rousting up the September 2009 installment of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I was seeking an article entitled “12-lead ECG in the athlete: physiological versus pathological abnormalities,” but as it turned out the entire journal issue was centered upon sudden cardiac death in athletes. Perfect!
We’ve all heard at least one news story about the uber fit young healthy triathlete, ironman, marathoner, bodybuilder, soccer player, world class swimmer, etc. who was young, the quintessential picture of health, and suddenly dropped dead from cardiac arrest either during or immediately after competing in their sport. How and why does that happen? It just doesn’t seem right. I’ve always wondered myself how that happens. Now that I've learned why, let me share it with you. It’s pretty damn interesting.
The ECG is not part of a sports physical in our country, nor in many others. In fact, Italy is the only country mentioned in my research that makes an ECG a required aspect of athletic screening. You see, an ECG will identify abnormalities of the heart that can either be “non-threatening” Athlete’s Heart Syndrome or insidious underlying sneaky heart conditions that left unidentified and undealt with can kill an athlete at the height of an adrenaline pumped competition. An ECG is not a foolproof tool for warding off such happenings though. You see, the pathological abnormalities telling of various heart diseases and the physiological changes indicative of Athlete’s Heart are easily mistaken for one another.
I’m in good company, 40% of athletes have been found to have abnormal ECG findings. Dividing up these abnormalities into two categories, common and training-related and uncommon and training-unrelated, is essential. The Corrado article features a table (see above) classifying ECG changes amongst the two categories. My first ECG was interpreted and printed out with a Right Bundle Branch Block finding which falls into the uncommon and training-unrelated category.
When my cardiologist did a second ECG he was leaning towards calling my abnormality either an Incomplete RBBB or a Nonspecific Intraventricular Conduction Defect. This epitomizes the diagnosis issues as RBBB indicates a potential heart disease while Incomplete RBBB is merely training-related and non-threatening.
After my echo-cardiogram I was told that my heart wall thickness was within normal bounds and thus I did not exhibit Athlete's Heart Syndrome. I was actually a little disappointed to hear that as it is an interesting morphology and is not detrimental. Why not have a ripped heart to go with your cut biceps? ;) Instead, a nurse told me that I had a non-specific intraventricular conduction defect. According to the articles in BJSM that's a known ECG marker for Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricle Cardiomyopathy / Dysplasia, which as the long hard to pronounce name infers, is bad. I made another appointment to find out what all this did or didn't mean and found out that my nonspecific intraventricular conduction defect is (happily!) not the type to indicate ARVC/D. Mine falls within the category of Lenegre disease and, I'm told, is not concerning. My cardiologist expects that I may progress to a full Right Bundle Branch Block in my lifetime, but he also mentioned his own Lenegre type Left Bundle Branch Block nonchalantly in the same sentence.
The impetus for this post has been very drawn out: from my initial high blood pressure in August, my abnormal ECG in October, Cardiologist appointment in November, Echo-cardiogram in December, and followup and clarification in January. But here we are fast approaching Valentine's Day - isn't a post about The Athlete's Heart perfectly appropriate? ;)
Monday, January 9, 2012
Running outdoors results in better views, especially atop towers atop mountainsides ;)
It’s a blogiversary!
What day is it? January 9, 2012 of course, and when did I start this blog? January 9, 2011. So happy one year anniversary to my intangible alter ego Figure Mommy! (Or umm something along those lines, but slightly more sane sounding ;)
It’s been quite a year. I’ve crashed my body fat to 13.1% (and ratcheted it back up to the low normal zone again – unfortunately!), competed in my first bodybuilding competition, competed in my first powerlifting competition, acknowledged my core values, and had loads of pithy randomness along the way.
I’m goal-less as the second year of this blog begins, but I have been trying new things. Today between six hours of straight sitting (aka classes) I asked my friend Hannah if she was game to go workout. She countered by asking if I’d run outside. If you follow this blog you know I don’t do any real running (just elliptical, stepmills and the like), but what the hey so I said okay. We ran up a wooded mountainside into an arboretum with a tower at the top containing half a dozen flights of stairs. So then we ran up and down the tower stairs four times for good measure and then back down the mountain looping around the south side of campus for 32 minutes all told. I was wearing my FiveFingers so I can all but guarantee my calves will feel it tomorrow. This one will be going into the “worth repeating” category of new fitness things tried.
One thing I believed before this blog began and that I still firmly believe now is that if you want to train, you can. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, whatever equipment you do or don’t have to work with, you can make it happen if you have an honest drive to do so.
On that note, and the blogiversary theme, let’s sign off with a flashback shall we?
This was in December 2010, over winter break, when I found myself stranded far far away from any gym while visiting family in Northern California. Not being able to get in a workout was really bothering me so I decided to improvise. I hadn’t yet put in any substantive effort into getting in shape or even dreamt of bodybuilding or this blog, but a month later I did.
Disclaimer: Now don’t pick on my form, rep quantity, etc. Thirteen months ago I had little clue what the heck I was doing when it came to weight-training ;)
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I’ve pretty much abandoned my blog lately. Not intentionally really, I’ve had a handful of post ideas brainstormed or even mostly written, but my lack of fitness focus led me to disregard them. I know I need to blog; it’s a positive outlet for me. When I go too long without doing it I start to notice that I’m posting to Facebook at three times my normal rate, which is a lot less convincing an activity to sell as a positive thing ;)
I have no fitness goal right now. It’s a problem for motivation, especially diet motivation. It’s a problem for blogging – a lack of correlation. I’ve juggled around some prospective goals, but nothing inspiring. I’d like to intentionally shed leg muscle to improve my relationship with denim. I’d like to drop body fat. I’d like to be able to bench press my body weight + 10 pounds. There are a lot of things I’d like to do, but none of these things have a concise specific goal outlined and none of them are set on a strict timeline beyond my control. In short, none of them are a figure competition.
Part of me would like to do another figure competition. This blog and my wild three month ride to my first figure competition began last January. I had 16 credits winter quarter 2011 – I even pulled off a respectable GPA that quarter despite committing 15 hours a week to the gym and strictly dieting. Now winter quarter 2012 has just begun; I have 16 credits again, I have a lot more muscle, I need to drop my holiday poundage, in theory I could compete again. But last year I crashed and burned impressively in school as spring quarter began and the post competition blues crushed me. I can’t afford to repeat that. So . . . what to do?
For a while I focused my training around just being stubborn and seeking to lift the heaviest anything and everything I could. I was proud when I was able to do a 65 pound single arm bent over dumbbell row. I was pleased when I got my Olympic barbell bicep curls up to 70 pounds. I had a ton of fun when I jumped into a powerlifting competition and benched 120 pounds, squatted 190 pounds, and deadlifted 240 pounds. I was my very proudest when I got my dumbbell shoulder press up to 40 pounds. Women aren’t generally known for hoisting the iron equivalent of a sack of dog food in each hand for a shoulder press. I thought it was the best thing ever so naturally I made a movie and blogged it here.
The problem is all that heavy lifting caught up to me. I have minimal flexibility in my neck and upper shoulders. Three weeks ago I got a tension headache that lasted for just under five days despite repeated Advil and Excedrin Migraine intervention. I could feel the tension running up my neck from my left shoulder and encompassing my whole head. It, umm, sucked. Since then I can feel the beginnings of a tension headache in my upper shoulders about two thirds of the times I train upper body so I pop an immediate Advil dose to kill it. You might call this a problem (I definitely do).
A five day headache will make one far more open-minded to the notion of change than the societal expectation of setting a New Year’s resolution will. A chiropractor suggested that I do yoga 4-5 times a week to help. I found a Vini Yoga Therapy DVD designed to specifically treat upper back, neck, and shoulder pain with resoundingly positive reviews on Amazon. I plan to start fitting that into my life soon. My approach to lifting needs to change too, by how I’m not yet sure. In the meantime I’m going to be open to trying new fitness adventures and writing about the ones that turn out to be entertaining.
This brings me to my funny feet =) You may have seen Vibram FiveFingers stepping around your local gym or out and about when the weather was warmer and dryer. They’re pretty odd looking huh? When my boyfriend got a pair last summer I thought he was downright goofy for it. I may have even chuckled, teased, and rolled my eyes, but then in the next few weeks he kept talking about how great they were in the gym. He kept repeating how much better squatting was in them so I began to get intrigued. Then my beloved M&F Hers featured a pretty pink pair in the Oct/Nov issue and I was drawn in. Rich got me that pair for my birthday and after two and a half months with them I LOVE THEM. It seriously creeps me out to wear anything else in the gym – it just feels wrong once you’re used to being “barefoot.” As for the tangible benefits (beyond getting to swear off socks – yes!) there are many. Primarily, you build calf strength and ankle stability. When I squat I feel so much more solid and stable. They make walking lunges more challenging (in a good way). They make climbing a Stepmill or running on a Treadmill feel more real and more productive, at least for me =)
Logging a solid 60 minute StepMill session between classes today FiveFingers style.
If you’ve been on the fence about trying a pair head to your nearest REI and go for it. Don’t let the initial try-on thwart you. It took me (and many others I hear) a good 10 minutes to get all my toes in place the first few times, but now it’s as easy peasy as putting on a pair of gloves. If you hate them, REI has an endearingly generous return policy, or if you love them you’ll have funny pink (or violet, blue, black, red, white, yellow, or green) feet like me!