Fitness Year In Review

As I sit here at my desk on this eve of the New Year, I reflect on what I have accomplished in 2013 and what I wish to achieve in the year to come.

I would have to say that the most significant moment of 2013 may have been my decision to compete. I remember that moment very well. I was so excited that I was likely perceived by others to be having a manic episode. I did not make the news public right away because I was unsure of how my family and friends would respond. The first person I told was my brother and his reaction was quite unexpected. Imagine my shock when I revealed this very personal decision and it was met with laughter. Yes, my brother laughed in my face. I cried. When it was explained to him that I did not intend to compete in the muscular female bodybuilder category but rather in the less muscular bikini and fitness divisions, he realized his mistake and was very apologetic. However, had I wanted to build that huge female bodybuilder physique, I would have made sure he paid for that.

I made my decision to begin training in March with the goal of competing in July. This was not a lot of time to get ready, especially for someone who has never been involved in weight training. I have participated in sports for my entire life so I had a good foundation and perhaps that was why I felt confident that I would be able to ready myself in time. However not everyone felt I would be ready. While still being supportive, certain gym rats in my family thought I wouldn’t quite be competition ready by the July date. I was determined to be ready, prove myself right and prove everyone else wrong.

When I told my friends of my goals, some were supportive and some were apprehensive. None of them really understood what my journey would entail and to be fair, I didn’t expect them to fully understand. One of my friends believed that lifting a five pound dumbbell would transform any lady into Arnold so I could definitely sense her silent judgement. You have to be ready to ignore the white noise.

The highlight of the year would likely be the first time I hit the stage. It was an amazing moment and I have never felt an emotion like that before in my life. Imagine the feeling of being prepared for something you have trained so hard for and not feeling any nerves about completely exposing yourself. You could make the decision to feel vulnerable but instead you know that you have done everything that you need to do and you are more than ready. You take that first step on stage wearing next to nothing in front of a packed theatre. Despite not being nervous, the very second I stepped on that stage, my smile instantly contorted into clown smile. That is unattractive. In all of my preparations, I had forgotten to practice my smile. Yes, that is important. Eventually I was able to rein in crazy face and all was well. Even if you don’t place, you have to know that everyone in the audience is looking at you with admiration and likely envy as well. I did place though, and I knew I would. And that statement doesn’t come from arrogance but rather from true belief in myself. As silly as it may sound, I feel as though I was meant for this.

During the course of my training this year, I watched myself transform physically but also mentally. And the change was noticed by the people around me. I became more outgoing, more bold, and overall more in charge of my life. A friend even commented on how I dress differently now, wearing mostly very fitted clothing and buying designer labels. While not so good for my wallet, I have a new appreciation for dressing for success and celebrating my body.

Aside from my attaining my education, this is possibly the best decision I could have made for myself. I feel that I am addicted. Addicted to a healthy lifestyle, addicted to the gym and addicted to competing. If I am going to have an addiction, at least it is a productive one.

For 2014, I aim to compete to win. No more second place trophies. My next show is set for March and I intend to kill it. I plan to qualify for an IFBB event this year and get to the Arnold Classic for 2015. For any doubters out there, I encourage you to watch me do it and kiss my perfectly formed behind while you’re at it.


The Hot Yoga Experience

At the beginning of this year I wanted to try a new form of exercise so I signed up for hot yoga. I want to share my experience with you so that you may familiarize yourself with this activity and try it for yourself.

For any of those who are unaware, the premise of hot yoga is to create a sweaty stench within the studio that is so aromatic that it will ward off wild animals from the premises. I kid, but in reality hot yoga is performing yoga poses in extraordinarily warm temperatures. This will encourage copious amounts of sweat to be released from every pore in your body and I suppose this is supposed to detoxify the body or some mumbo jumbo. It is actually a fantastic workout but there is no other workout that will make you feel you need a shower more than this one.

I have a healthcare background and I am quite anal about infection control. Walking on a warm surface while barefoot where so many others have walked barefoot before me, makes me quite anxious. Warts, fungus, ew… So I acquired some yoga socks which put my mind at ease as it provided me with a barrier against pesky foot pathogens. Ignoring the funny looks I got from my barefoot disease spreading peers, I proceeded to enter the studio.

When you first enter the studio, you are met with an intoxicating aroma. Ah, the smell of sweat in the air. This is like pure concentrated smell. This is definitely no eau de toilette, it’s the hardcore shit. If I hadn’t paid for this class already, I would have been very tempted to walk straight out after being greeted by this odour. As you pick your spot and place your mat, you start to become acclimated to the conditions.

Having never attempted yoga of any kind before, I had certain preconceived notions about how this 75 minute class would go. I thought we would do some gentle posing in a warm room and it would be nice and relaxing. Imagine the feeling of being asleep and then a cold bucket of water is dumped on you. Well in this case, it was a hot bucket of water I suppose. Point being, I was in for a rude awakening.

The poses themselves are not difficult, however the pace and the actual strength needed to hold the poses for periods of time made for an intense physical endeavour. Downward dog, cobra, up dog… the yoga flow. It’s a killer. That being said, I don’t suppose that everyone who does yoga is fit. I did notice a woman who was fantastic at all the poses and was very flexible. She was clearly skilled yet she did not look fit for whatever reason. So what I took from this observation is that perhaps it would be best to incorporate various styles of exercise into a workout plan to achieve results rather than just sticking to yoga alone. But I do not know her situation so I will shut up before I get myself into hot water.

During the session, you begin to sweat so profusely that there is not a dry area of skin on your body. It is like a thin layer of slime has built up around you. Sweat is streaking down your face, into your eyes and causing them to sting. You can feel sweat drip from behind your ear all the way down your neck. You now come to a realization and then silently apologize to the next group of yogis that will enter this room because you know that you are now contributing to the room ambience which turned you off so much at the start of your session. It is at this point that you check your watch and notice that there is another 65 minutes left in the session… (Insert profanity of choice here).

Once the yoga session had ended and you exit the studio, it literally feels as if you are exiting from the hottest hell and re-entering the human world. As I was unaware of what was to follow, I threw on a hoodie and left it unzipped as I stepped into the cold to walk to my car. Well, I think all of the sweat that was on my body pretty much froze the instant I stepped outside. It was quite an uncomfortable feeling.

In summation, hot yoga is a fantastic workout and you should attempt it. Be warned however and ensure to take the proper steps to prepare yourself for the discomfort that may ensue.

Fitness Fatigue

I wrote this post the other week when I was sick but I didn’t end up making it public. I’ll be honest, I had a late night yesterday and I am far too tired to write a new post today. Without further ado, here you go…

Do you ever question your motivations? Every now and then I experience days where I feel that I lose myself. As I was half assing it through my workout today due to my current affliction known as the common cold, I found myself questioning my love of exercise. I spent the majority of the day lounging in sweats so ill fitting that in the eyes of a stranger, I likely would have appeared to be 4x my actual size and my pants so baggy that they gave the illusion that my butt was dangling down to my knees. Needless to say, I was not in an exercising mood. So I put it off. I’ll go at 2:00. I put it off. I’ll go at 4. I put if off. Eventually around 7pm I picked myself up out of the pool of tissues that had accumulated around my body and I squeezed into my workout attire. I would have much rather gone to the gym in the clothes I was already in, however I suspected that I may have been perceived as a homeless person and would then have been escorted off the premises. I did not feel so in love with exercise at this point. Even as I was working out, I just wanted to be at home, veg out on the couch and eat a less than healthy portion of cake. That’s not who I am! What is happening to me?! This isn’t the first time I have battled with my motivations. Every now and then I will experience this and question my goals. In the past I have questioned my desire to compete in fitness competitions, to workout as hard and as much as I do, and to stick with a nutrition plan that would make any normal individual want to stab themselves in the throat with a fork. Eventually I always snap out of it and fall back in love with the gym and with competing and all is right with the world but this journey of mine is so draining.
Constant discipline and dietary restrictions would drive anyone crazy. I just break every now and then unfortunately. I must remind myself of the end goal and how sweet it will be to achieve it. Becoming an IFBB bikini pro and competing with the best is what I want most, and I will not achieve it unless I remain focused and dedicated.

So join me as I trudge on through physical and mental discomfort and hope that these current misguided feelings of hatred for physical exercise subside sooner than later so I can return back to my fitness loving self.

If you are ever feeling alone in your less than pleasant thoughts of exercise, just remember that even gym robots have bad days.

Do It (all?) Yourself

You know that old saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Perhaps there is some merit to that statement.

For my first competition, I did my own tan, makeup and hair all because I was too cheap to invest. For those of you on a budget, I will let you know that it can be done but I think in the future I will invest in professional services. Upon reflection, it does seem strange to pay someone to see you naked and paint every inch of your body in a nice golden bronze. That sounds more like a fetish. Maybe my spray tan lady should pay me. Have you heard of jack of all trades, master of none? I’ll give myself some credit and say that I am a master of some, but I will put my ego aside for now and admit that I am not the grand expert of all things. Some things you should really just leave to the experts.

When it comes to bodybuilding and eating, there are really no other options but to do it yourself. You have to create your own homemade meals because there are just too many additives or contraband ingredients in either restaurant foods or premade store bought meals.

The stereotypical bodybuilder meal is chicken and broccoli and I’m not talking about fried chicken and broccoli bathed in butter. I’m talking baked plain chicken breast and steamed plain broccoli. Day after day, this starts to be about as appetizing as cardboard with a side of mould. When you have a strict meal plan, you really have to get creative and come up with your own recipes so you don’t fall into a chicken/broccoli coma.

Unfortunately, sometimes the homemade foods which will typically lack sugar, butter, and oil may start to taste like dog food. I have made food before and when shared with others, I got the response, “It tastes healthy”. Whenever someone says “It tastes healthy” you know they actually mean that it tastes like a field of grass. If you make a particularly healthy recipe, it may even end up tasting like a herd of cows have recently visited said grassy patch. There is a delicate balance between making something that tastes like a cow pie and making something that will make you look like the cow it came from.

I have had to experiment with different combinations of ingredients to make my own recipes and tailor them to fit with my personal preferences. There are two recipes I came up with that I am particularly in love with. One is my homemade lean chicken burgers and the other is my homemade granola. The granola recipe was definitely a labour of love. I failed about 3 times before I got the recipe just right. Not enough moisture; tastes like feet; is this safe for human consumption? These are some of the thoughts that come to mind when thinking of my failed batches. In the end, it was worth it because my granola is my go to snack and keeps my sweet cravings at bay.

Whatever it is, in this sport you almost learn to do it yourself out of necessity. If I don’t cook healthy meals for myself, I will not have a competition ready body. If I don’t have money for a posing coach, I will learn to pose from YouTube. You have to make sure that you do your research. Research is the key to success. If you don’t do your research, you will just have to pay someone who has already done their research. Just make sure that you don’t stay in the research stage, because if you never put it into practice, what good is it?

Excuse Me, But Do You Mind If I Watch You Fail?

The other day I was attempting to display how to do a burpee to some friends. I was casually talking to them as I was going through the motions and as I was lowering down into the push up position of the burpee, I smoked my head on the floor. This was met with laughter and jeers and it left me feeling quite embarrassed. I could have lied and said that I had meant to do that but likely the only one who would have believed me would be my dog, and only because he doesn’t know what I’m saying. Of course I had to then preserve my pride so I forced an audible laugh to alert my peers that I don’t take myself too seriously. To make matters worse, for the next 15 minutes the big red welt in the centre of my forehead continued to be a source of amusement for all those who gazed upon it.

This got me thinking. When a self proclaimed hotshot errs in some way, why do we love it so much?

When I went skating on the Ottawa River last year, moving at a snail’s pace I might add, a young lady zipped by me at lightning speed. Clearly she was skilled and wanted to display it. But as she was daring past me, I noticed something that made her hotshotness a little less impressive. Her tights were quite translucent in the ass region which made her thong visible to all. I assume that she was oblivious to this fact. But why did I feel less threatened by her skill when I saw her pant catastrophe? As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am a competitive person and I don’t like to be bested. Perhaps it was the pants that provided my mind with the ammunition to take her down a notch.

Why is it so gratifying to see a professional or someone successful in their field having a lack of control? That lack of control might be that they are unaware that they are semi nude. Or perhaps they are unable to do the last rep without contorting their face into what resembles a Picasso painting (see image). Or maybe they have a one time lapse in proprioceptive abilities and they end up dropping a workout bench on their leg in front a large group of people. Yes, the last two happened to me. Do we enjoy this because it makes us feel better about ourselves? I am just being philosophical here but I worry that the answer might be yes.

I will admit to being a self proclaimed gym hotshot. Yes, I make mistakes and if that gives others a confidence boost, good for them. However I will also admit to sometimes being on the other side. This is not a conscious decision and my mind just does it automatically. Perhaps it has gotten somewhat worse since I started competing and this is something I would like to work on. When competing, we are all so physically similar and we are judged based on little differences. Any tiny error, whether it be the physique, makeup, hair, suit, or posing can potentially mean the difference between first place and last. In the end, what good is it to compare yourself to others? You are responsible for your own success and simply wishing for what someone else has will never give you the results you seek. So I say grab life by the balls and stop worrying about the audience, unless of course you are wearing translucent pants, and in that case you should probably change.

Don’t Talk To Strangers?

Your mother always told you not to talk to strangers, but what if you could gain something by doing it? I’m not referring to receiving anything tangible, I am referring to gaining knowledge. Surely you must be wondering how this could possibly pertain to fitness. Well, let me explain.

Last week I was powering through my leg day circuit and as I often do, I decided to add in a new exercise. I began doing some side lunges with just body weight. I had good form but I didn’t feel the burn that would normally tell me I am really working the muscle. I completed two sets on each leg and right before beginning my third set, a man came over and tapped me on the shoulder. Now, when I’m in the gym and doing my routine, I usually prefer to remain focused and I don’t talk to anyone. There are exceptions of course, such as if a man of Arnold proportions wants to ask me on a date. In reality though, I am very approachable at the gym and will be friendly to anyone. Call it good gym karma.

This nice man offered advice on a different way to do the side lunge utilizing upper body and core muscles by incorporating a medicine ball. I actually felt much more of a burn performing the exercise in the manner he showed me and will continue perform it in this way. I was doing your standard body weight side lunge as pictured on the right. The way of creating variation in your routine would be to hold the medicine ball with both hands straight in front of you and keep your arms in this position throughout the entire movement, as you alternate your lunges from side to side.

Another similar incident occurred some time ago and coincidentally,
it also happened to be leg day. Hmm..I see a pattern. I was doing barbell squats but I was having trouble getting the weight up and unknowingly bending my knees inward in the process. A nice man noticed this and advised me to consciously keep the knees firmly apart to prevent joint wear and tear. Ignoring the fact that an old man was watching me do deep squats for an extended period of time, this was actually a good piece of advice. He also suggested that I change my footwear. I was wearing regular running shoes and he suggested very flat or minimalist shoes when squatting or deadlifting. After some research, I decided to try out a pair of very thin soled shoes. I can’t say I notice a big difference but the shoes make me look extra hard core, so I guess it was worth it.

It seems that it is always the older gentlemen that do not have a problem talking to me and correcting my form or advising me on how to change up my routine. Women don’t talk to me, guys my age don’t talk to me…What is it about the older male generation that makes them so friendly? Some women may choose to be creeped out by this type of behaviour but what would that get you? Sometimes people are just eager to help and it would be foolish to dismiss someone without hearing what they have to say. Regardless, if someone at the gym ever comes over to you and tries to correct your form or show you something new, be open minded because you may just learn something. Upon reflection, maybe what I have learned is that I wear workout pants that are far too tight. But my motto when it comes to workout gear is TIGHT AND BRIGHT, so in that case I guess I will have to keep talking to strangers.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Suit!..and how this turned into a Rob Ford post

Merry Christmas friends! I hope you are all having a happy holiday season and you have received all of the items on your list. I also hope that you were able to display more will power than I when it came to the Christmas sweeties. I regret to inform you that, yes I did indulge slightly in the sweets but to never indulge is to be a soulless, Christmas hating, baby punching robot. When I rationalize it like that, I don’t feel so bad.

I simply cannot contain my excitement and I must share with you that I have received a new competition suit for Christmas. For my next show in March of 2014, I will be wearing a suit equivalent in size to a napkin. Its colour is ruby red and is reminiscent of the colour of Toronto Mayor Rob Fords face. The bling on the suit is so shiny and reflective that it too is reminiscent of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s face. For those of you who are unaware, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office, so for that reason and a few others, I don’t mind taking a few jabs. I don’t have first hand experience here but isn’t crack supposed to make you skinny? I think he was doing it wrong. Anyone living outside of Toronto will likely not know this but this guy willingly and publicly attempted the “Cutting the Waist Challenge”. He also encouraged others to take the challenge. Now, Mr. Ford is not a small man by any means and he publicly acknowledged this truth. As a man in a position of power, he had the opportunity to lead by example and fight the battle against obesity. And what better motivation could you have? An entire city was watching him and cheering him on as he battled the bulge. I don’t know about you, but if I had an entire city watching me trying to accomplish a goal, I damn well better succeed, or at least die trying. Failing is alright. Failure is part of life and I have failed many times. And you should never be afraid to take on a task because you are afraid of failing. However, there is failing and then there is quitting and the latter is what can distinguish you from the rest. Mr. Ford quit. He quit three weeks prior to the scheduled end of the challenge. Even if he were to lose absolutely no weight, at least finish the challenge man! Publicly quitting so close to the end date is a dopey thing to do. Dopey… get it?

But I digress. This was supposed to be a post dedicated to my new suit and how spectacular it is but I see that I have gone on a wild tangent. In my final remark, I will leave you with this mental picture… my new competition suit is so wonderful that the only thing that could detract from its beauty is if Mayor Rob Ford was to wear it.