Monthly Archives: August 2013

The rest of Week One: the ‘Bombshell Muscles” and peg legs

On the morning of Day 2, I wake up with an upper body that feels like it has spent the previous day doing a lot of waterskiing; stretched-out, sore, arms kind of floppy. I’m hoping this is a sign that the work I did on Day One was effective. On Day Two of the LiveFit Trainer, we are focusing on what Jamie refers to as ‘the bombshell muscles’, biceps and back, on Day Three, we move on to legs and calves, and we finish out the week on Day Four with Shoulders and Abs

I like not having to decide what I am going to do each time I enter the gym. So many days I stand outside the locker room pondering which form of torture I will choose (Elliptical? Noooo, I got a side stitch yesterday when I did that……Stationary bike? Noooooo, I don’t feel like having a forty-five minute wedgie………….Treadmill? Nooooo, too many skinny people running too quickly, I’ll look like a clumsy oaf). With the day pre-planned, I don’t have to waste time hemming and hawing, and my workout feels less like torture and more like a challenge. Learning how to use the machines and pushing myself to complete the required sets and repetitions is turning out to be pretty fun and appeals to a facet of human nature that can help us all out: our innate competitiveness. Even if you don’t have a gym buddy (I don’t, my Fitness Freak Friends all go while I am still sound asleep), you can compete with yourself to make sure you are trying your hardest.

The thing I am having the most trouble with in these workouts is ensuring I am isolating the right muscle group during each exercise and not allowing other muscles to help out. This is much harder than one would think; it is counterintuitive not to use your core muscles to help you lift something that your bicep alone is having to work pretty hard to lift, and as I look around the gym during my rest breaks, I notice that I am not the only one facing this problem. If, especially when we are doing any of the standing-up exercises that we come to as we move along, for example the front delt raises on Day Four,  we are using our lower back to help lift or give us momentum, we are not exercising effectively for two reasons. Reason one is simply if we are using our back to complete a move designed for the shoulder, our shoulder won’t get any stronger. Reason two is that we are going to hurt our backs. I have decided that I am not impressed with the muscle-bound beefcakes who are grunting and sweating to lift a super-heavy weight but are using their lower backs as a fulcrum to help swing the weight to complete the exercise. Trade down, dude, and save your spine some grief! There is no shame in using lighter weights as you move along and your muscles get tired. It is good to push yourself, but not to the point of a herniated disc.

The workout that left me the most sore was a HUGE surprise to me. I was pretty sore after Day One, but Day Three, the legs and calves workout, left me mincing along like I had peg legs for the remainder of the week. Day Three was a Thursday for me, and on the following Monday, I was still feeling the burn in my quadriceps (their friends call them quads). My legs are the most in shape part of my body thanks to the amount of walking I do daily and my frequent horseback riding , so I felt comfortable challenging myself and did not expect to to be sore at all. Leg press, leg curls, calf raises, no problem. What really got me was the wide stance barbell squat. I underestimated the power of the squat! To perform this exercise, I used just the barbell, no extra weight, and it was difficult to keep my balance when I lowered my body, and then my poor little legs had to propel both body and bar back to an upright position.  My quads griped for several days about being over worked and under paid.

What is your biggest challenge when you exercise? Boredom, fatigue, or maybe, like me, you have wimpy quads that threaten to give out on you instead of push you back to standing when doing a squat?

LiveFit Trainer, Day One: Pushups are F@*%ing Hard

I am beginning this program with great expectations and a little skepticism. I have watched Jamie Eason’s videos and read her email the night before, I’ve eliminated most of my stash of junk food*, and I’ve enlisted the help of someone who knows their way around the Nautilus machines for my first LiveFit workout.

My expectations are high because this beautiful, blonde, Athena is telling me that in just 12 weeks, I could look like she does! Jamie looks amazing (even her eyebrows look fit) and while it would be nice to think that I will resemble her after this program, I must remind myself that no two human bodies are alike and that I have already decided not to adhere to her strict diet and supplementation guidelines, so I will probably not see the same results as I would if I were doing the whole program. If the diet and supplements are something you think you can manage, more power to you, but remember that you are making LIFE changes here, not just temporary changes. We must adjust the program to fit into our life in a way that can be sustained long term; if we are too hard on ourselves, we won’t stick with it.  Here are the changes I am making to my current diet/supplement routine:

1. Less junk food.  At some point I decided a serving of Haribo gummies was one entire package. Perhaps that is why I now resemble a gummy in physique?

2. More fruit and veggies. I’m a vegetarian, so this is actually a little hard, but I have managed to find instances where I am reaching for a processed snack when I should be reaching for an earth-made snack.

3. Eat a better breakfast. No more chomping down a granola bar while I walk the dog in the morning. Its time to dish up some oatmeal or yogurt and fruit so that I make it more than an hour without wanting to eat again.

4. Smaller portions of the not-so-good for you stuff. In Germany, there is a dish called Käsespätzle which is like macaroni and cheese only made with small dumplings instead of pasta and is served with crispy, fried onions on top. When you order it in a restaurant, you get about five pounds of it and usually a small salad. I’m trying to eat all of the salad and some of the cheesy dumplings instead of the other way around.

5. Take a multivitamin with calcium and iron.

Change 3, eat a better breakfast.
Change 3, eat a better breakfast.

These are easy things to do, and things I think I can continue to do for the long haul. We know ourselves best, and if we take a few minutes, we can all find a place in our diet that could use a little work. Maybe you could cut your daily caramel, whipped cream, circus in a cup from Starbucks down to a once a week thing? If pizza is your weak spot, try making it at home where you can control the ingredients. Maybe that ice cream cone on the way home from work is the only thing that gets you through your Monday? Don’t deprive yourself, but try one scoop instead of two and walk around the block while you savor it instead of sitting on a bench. We can exercise all we want, but if we don’t modify our eating habits, all our hard work will be in vain.

I’ve got a plan for where my diet should be headed, and I’ve found a Fitness Freak who is willing to be my tour guide through the gym. Most of the exercises for today are pretty easy to execute once you have watched the how-to videos; the bigger challenge for me today is getting over my self-consciousness at the gym. I really hate looking like I don’t know what I am doing, and I am already at a disadvantage in the gym because I am not lean and chiseled (hmmmm, I wonder which of these ladies has never used this equipment before? The one with the abs on her abs or the lumpy Mrs. Potatohead lookalike?). It should also be noted that if you do not know what you are doing, you could really hurt yourself doing something incorrectly. Day One focuses on chest and triceps which sounds pretty innocuous, until you get to the push-ups. There are two types of push-ups in the workout for Day One, and I’m not sure which type is more torturous.

I struggled to do some facsimile of a push-up on my knees (the ‘girl way’ as I learned it in grade school), arms shaking, sweat beading on my hairline, while my FFF (Fitness Freak Friend) easily did twice as many as we were required to do, even touching his nose to the floor. My push-ups were weak and pathetic, and I felt the same; shouldn’t my arms be able to support the weight of my upper body? No matter, it can only get better.

Upon completing Day One’s workout, I felt pretty kick-ass. I had managed to do all of the exercises and now had a pretty good idea of the layout of the gym and those grunting, sweating, muscle-bound people didn’t intimidate me as much. Never mind that after my workout I could hardly lift my arms to wash my hair, I took a big step out of my comfort zone (a twenty foot radius from my couch) and toward a happier, healthier zone.

*The term ‘eliminated’ might lead some of you to believe that I threw away my stash of junk food. Uh-uh, I ate it. Pretty much all of it. It was the most glorious half hour of my day, but probably counterproductive. Along with my muscles, my willpower could use some strengthening.

Two sets of goals, one pretty relatable story and the dress that broke the camel’s back.

Each of us has two sets of fitness goals: fantasy fitness goals and realistic fitness goals. It’s a safe bet that our fantasy goals are far reaching and might be next to impossible to attain without serious deprivation dieting and a little plastic surgery, but we shouldn’t abandon those goals because I think that they help us get closer to achieving what is realistic by making those goals seem manageable and almost easy by comparison.

My fantasy goal is to look like I did when I was in my early 20’s. My early 20’s were a fantastic time for me; I was slim without trying to be and I regularly ate ice cream and diet Coke for dinner, a Dunkin Donuts Iced Latte and jelly donut for breakfast, and maybe something healthy for lunch since that was my ‘in-public’ meal. I was blessed with good fortune, but now, in my late 20’s, my fortune has changed. Realistically, I know that I will probably never look like the 23 year old version of myself again, but that knowledge has helped me to define my REAL goals.

Fantasy goal
My fantasy goal. Me, at 24. The pretty face on the left is one of my favorite people, Danielle. She still looks the same today as she does in the photo.

In a compromise between the current version of myself and the early 20’s version, I have decided that I should focus less on how high the numbers on the scale are and more on all around health. My current goals are to get stronger, build endurance and have more energy, and pay more attention to how my body feels and how my clothes fit than how much I weigh. We all put too much emphasis on the numbers (weight, jeans size…) and lose sight of the bigger picture; health.

My story is probably not very unique. I was a scrawny teenager, a healthy young adult who managed to avoid the dreaded Freshman Fifteen and was fortunate to have a job that required enough manual labor to counteract my Ben & Jerry’s and Iced Lattes, and then several things happened within a few years of each other. The first blow to my physique was the dreaded slow-down of my metabolism. It probably didn’t happen overnight, but it sure seemed that way. My clothes started to fit a little more snugly and my high-sugar, high-fat meals were leaving me feeling sluggish. I, of course, ignored these symptoms and didn’t modify my eating habits all that much. The second blow came a year or so later when I received word that Don was being transferred to an overseas position in Germany (where we currently live). I was very stressed about the big move. I was stressed about getting our pets there in one piece, about getting our things either to Germany or in storage, and about leaving my job which I absolutely loved. In order to soothe my stress, I started to eat. And eat and eat. The third blow was delivered upon my arrival in Germany. I was suddenly unemployed and far away from all of my friends (read: still stressed and now bored), so I continued to eat.  Not only was the amount of crunching, munching and snacking I was doing a problem, but also the things that were readily available for consumption. Germany, particularly Bavaria, where we live, produces the most delicious beers, bread, pretzels, and chocolate croissants I have ever tasted. All told I gained almost 20 pounds over the course of two years. It is not easy to hide an extra 20 pounds.

I think I truly realized I had to take action against myself to save myself when I tried to wear The Dress that Broke the Camel’s Back.

Grey Dress
Here it is, my moment of clarity.

I wore this dress in July 2012 to a job interview. It fit great! I got the job! In July 2012, I was already heavier than I was comfortable with; I felt like a clumsy, bloated stranger in my own body. Fast forward to February 2013. I needed something to wear to a retirement dinner and I pulled this dress out of the closet……and it didn’t fit. Not even close. Not even when I held my arms above my head and sucked everything in while Don tried to zip it. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to either accept the path that I was on and buy bigger clothes (and probably even bigger clothes later on) or I needed to try harder to be healthier. I chose to bid adieu to the puffed-up balloon version of myself and started dragging myself to the gym at least four days a week. It has taken me another 5 months to talk myself into re-assesing my eating habits and pushing myself more in my workouts, but, as they say, Rome was not built in a day.

Part of the function of this blog is to hold myself accountable. How hypocritical would I be if I started writing this blog about how I’m really dedicating myself to better fitness even though I would much rather eat cake and macaroni and cheese all day every day only to not follow through? How much would it suck if I said to you “C’mon, join me! It’ll be fun, and we can support each other! Lets take over gyms worldwide in a non-Fitness Freak fitness revolution!” and then left you high and dry?

Lets hold each other accountable!

The gadgets, the programs.

This winter, my husband, Don, put something weird on his Christmas list; a FitBit. What is this ‘FitBit’ you ask? I wondered too. It turns out, a few of his friends (the CrossFit, Paleo, bathing suit model Fitness Freaks) had FitBits and there was a little friendly competition going on that Don wanted to get in on. Don, it should be said, is not a full-fledged Fitness Freak, but he is pretty close. Santa did bring him a FitBit for Christmas, and it turned out to be a neat little device.

FitBit
My FitBit, displaying the flower that grows when I am active, shrinks when I am not.

What a FitBit basically is, is a pimped-out pedometer. It tracks your daily steps, flights of stairs climbed, minutes of activity, distance travelled and calories burned. The device will sync wirelessly to your computer and/or smartphone, and you can go online and log the food you eat and any activities the FitBit can’t register (like swimming) so that the device will also keep track of the calories you eat versus the calories you burn. You can also find friends (via Facebook etc.) who have FitBits and you can see how many steps they are doing each day which is a pretty good motivator. There is an online FitBit community and you can join different themed groups; I am in a dog walking group. It is a pretty cool little gadget! I received one for my birthday; a sign that Don was maybe tired of me asking him to check how far we’d walked anytime we happened to be walking together. I have been happily using my FitBit One (the company has several varieties) since March, and I can laud it for surviving an accidental trip through the washing machine. Even if you don’t want to shell out the dough for a FitBit (they are a little pricey), any pedometer is super helpful for gauging exactly how much moving you do each day. I had a big epiphany when I started logging my food and realized exactly how many calories were in the foods I eat regularly. It was actually kind of a slap in the face, but I think I needed that. You can check out the FitBits online, but a simple pedometer and a food diary would accomplish the same basic goals of finding out how much we are moving versus how much we are eating.

Quite recently, I have started an exercise program. That’s right, an exercise program. Throughout the winter, I started to train myself to exercise more. I can now run for 15 minutes on the treadmill (albeit veeeerrrrry slooooooowwwly) without gasping for air. I am quite aware that 15 minutes of running is not very much running at all, but compared to the zero minutes I could (or would) run last Fall, it seems like a significant milestone. I am proud that I have gone from being a person who would rather negotiate with an angry bear than try to outrun it to one who could at least attempt to run away (if the bear had just eaten its hibernation meal and was on its way to bed when we crossed paths), but lets face it, running is boring.*

A friend of mine was raving about a program she was doing, so I decided to check it out in hopes that it could alleviate my boredom. It is on a website called BodyBuilding.com and the program is Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer. I know what you’re thinking, “this is a body building program! You have deceived me, you are, in fact, a Fitness Freak!”, but hold up. This program is for 12 weeks, and in the first month, we don’t do any cardio. That’s right, no running, stationary biking, ellipticizing, none of that. I am currently one week into the program, and each day has taken me about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. What I like most about this program, is that each exercise is demonstrated in a pretty detailed video so  you have some idea what you are supposed to be doing. I also enlisted the help of a Fitness Freak friend (we all have at least one, scroll through your contacts list right now and find that person!) so that I could locate the correct equipment for the exercises. I mean, what normal person knows what a Flat Bench Cable Flye is? One week in, I’m really enjoying my workouts. I should also mention that this program is FREE.

If, unlike myself, you are feeling extra inspired, Jamie also offers a diet  and a supplement regime to follow. I am doing neither the diet nor the supplement regime  because I don’t think  they are sustainable long-term for myself. What I am doing instead is trying to drastically reduce the amount of junk food I eat (currently my daily junk food intake rivals that of a 10 year old on Halloween night) and remember to take my daily multivitamin.

Tune in next time for the goals, and the story behind the blog…….

*To all the Dwight K. Schrutes out there, I realize that when encountering a bear, a person is not supposed to run away even if they can now run for 15 minutes on a treadmill.

This is my first post! Welcome!

Before I introduce myself, I need for you to know one thing: I am not a fitness freak.

I have family and good friends who are fitness freaks; they eat paleo, do CrossFit, and look great in a bathing suit, but I am not one of them. I am a normal person. I eat pizza, and do casual, recreational, unintentional exercise, and I look sort of doughy in a bathing suit.

My name is Liz, and I am embarking on a physical journey to better health and fitness, and I’m hoping your support will help me toward my goals. Perhaps you have goals for better health and fitness you would like to work toward? Great! We can support each other, here, through this blog.

I’m happy that you have found me here on the world wide web. There are sooooooo maaaaany fitness blogs, websites, programs and whatever out there, but they can be pretty intimidating. This one is a friendly blog. It’s an ‘It’s-ok if we don’t know what that weird machine with the handles and the cables and the metal sticky-outie-thingys in the corner of the gym by the mirrors-is’ blog. Its a ‘we’d rather have a glass of wine than a protein shake’ blog. Its a blog for us, the people who want to occasionally eat fried food, have a beer and spend less than an hour a day thinking about (and doing) exercise.

This is my first post, so, welcome and thank you. In my next posts, I will be outlining my two sets of goals and detailing some of the programs and gadgets I will be using to help me out. Hope to see you there!